Community colleges: Helping to transform providers into professionals

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Over the years, businesses and professional organizations across the country have turned to community colleges when they need quick, targeted and business-specific training. The HME industry could do the same. What's more, as far as I'm concerned, there is little doubt that community colleges can help transform HME providers into the kinds of HME professionals that policy-makers view with high regard.
The demands on employees in the home medical equipment industry and in other markets have increased. The delivery of products, customer service and consumer education now require workers who are not only knowledgeable but also who can work as part of a team, think critically and communicate orally and in writing to various groups, including fellow workers, supervisors and customers. The community college is positioned to address these emerging and changing needs through short-term training delivered using technology (computer, Internet, interactive video). The community college can quickly assess needs and design training to address these needs leading to measurable outcomes that affect job performance. A continuum of training opportunities can be designed to develop skills common in an industry sector that can be adapted to meet unique local workforce needs. Learning opportunities for incumbent workers assure the employer of an educated workforce prepared to meet the demands of new production processes, as well as customer information for marketing to new clients.
For example, Lorain County Community College has responded to the market demand for nursing aides, nurses (LPNs and RNs), X-ray and other medical technologists and other healthcare workers by offering on-campus training courses as short as six weeks and as long as two-year associate's degree programs. At the same time, the college has developed short, skill-centered programs for customer service personnel. Like many community colleges, LCCC has invested in state-of-the-art technology to support everything from Internet-based text-only courses to live interactive streaming video. This has enabled us to do many things--not the least of which is "host" continuing education programs for a number of healthcare professionals. Distance learning programs are developed, produced and provided at very reasonable cost to sponsors and participants/students.
America's community colleges are agile and responsive, willing to adapt and adjust to the needs of a variety of professionals.

Dr. Roy Church is president of the Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio.