Health, Education and Public Safety

The following article first appeared in the May 29, 2014, Fennimore Times as part of its “Buzz About Town” series. It is reprinted here with permission from Fennimore Times Editor Rob Callahan.

Thanks to an outstanding faculty and staff, many good things are happening at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College. This is the first of a series providing highlights from around the College.

Today I shine the spotlight on Southwest Tech’s Division of Health, Education, and Public Safety led by Ms. Katie Garrity, Dean. I am grateful for her help writing this article.

This year, 446 Health, Education, and Public Safety students received a technical certificate, technical diploma, or associate degree. The number in each program was Nurse Assistant 245; Nursing 43; Practical Nursing 36; Medical Assistant 31; Dental Assistant 22; Criminal Justice-Law Enforcement 15; Early Childhood Education 15; Medical Coding Specialist 11; Human Services Associate 8; Medical Laboratory Technician 6; Physical Therapy Assistant 6; Direct Entry Midwife 4; Child Care Services 3; and Medical Transcription 1. Because employer demand for medical transcriptionists has fallen away, Southwest Tech last year stopped enrolling new students in that program.

Graduates from several allied health programs must pass certifying exams before they can work, but passage rates verify that a Southwest Tech education well prepares students for those exams. For example, the first-time passage rate for nursing students has been 100%, 100%, and 99% the past three years.

Most Southwest Tech graduates seek immediate employment or use their credential to advance in their current place of work. However, some graduates continue their education either while working or as a full-time student. For example, Nurse Assistant graduates may enter a practical nursing or nursing education program at Southwest Tech or elsewhere. Or, students receiving associate degrees may transfer into a baccalaureate degree program at a four-year university.

For students with an associate degree in one of Southwest Tech’s allied health programs, transfer into a bachelors program has become significantly easier. Starting this fall, Franklin University will be offering the classes needed to complete either a BS in Allied Health Management or a BS in Nursing on Southwest Tech’s Fennimore campus.

The Division is currently developing three new programs. Health Information Technology (HIT) as well as Cancer Information Management (CIM) will be offered entirely online, lead to associate degrees, and begin fall 2014. The College already has accepted 13 students and is processing 6 additional applications for these programs. More students are expected by August. These programs are perfect for those who want a rewarding healthcare career, but prefer to avoid the emotional and physical “messiness” of direct patient care.

The College received funding from two grants to support these programs’ development. An $119,000, one-year, state grant from the Wisconsin Technical College System is funding the start-up of CIM. A $770,000, three-year, federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration supported creation of the “Southwest Health Network,” a partnership of regional health information specialists. The Network is now helping develop the curriculum for HIT as well as creating collaborative strategies for student recruitment and for training and retention of incumbent health information technology specialists.

The third new program, a one-year technical diploma in Laboratory Science Technician, starts fall 2015. This program will be embedded in the Medical Laboratory Technician (MLT) curriculum, meaning graduates will enjoy two options. They can either a) take their diploma and get a job in food processing, chemical manufacturing, healthcare, or any organization needing lab techs or b) complete another year at Southwest Tech and earn the associate degree in MLT. These programs are perfect for people interested in working in a laboratory setting.

Two additional healthcare highlights deserve mention. First, Southwest Tech gave regional healthcare providers an opportunity this year to submit proposals for leasing space in the Health Science Center from which to provide medical, dental, and mental health services to the public. Crossing Rivers Health, previously named Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital, was awarded the contract and started operation this spring.

Second, the Division will offer two conferences this summer for midwives or those interested in midwifery. Both conferences will feature nationally recognized practitioners.

Southwest Tech’s Public Safety Programs serve thousands of students each year. Offerings include education and training in Criminal Justice (associate degree); Driver Education, Motorcycle Safety, Traffic Safety, Law Enforcement Academy, Jail Academy, Dispatch Certification, Fire Services, Emergency Medical Services, and more.

Driver Education is offered to students in 20 Southwest Wisconsin school districts via contract with those districts and to 400 additional Wisconsin students via online courses.

The Law Enforcement Academy, which must be successfully completed to work as a police officer in Wisconsin, is changing. Through this year, the Academy included 520 hours of training; per State statute and rules, future Academies will include 700 hours. The result will be better prepared entry-level police officers.

Much is going on at Southwest Tech. These are highlights from only one Division and do not even include all of the exciting happenings there! Learn more on the College’s web or social media sites.

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