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Some people just enjoy helping

February 22, 2012
Times Leader
By SHAUNNA DUNDER HERSHBERGER, Times Leader Lifestyles Editor

MARTINS FERRY—“I’ve always enjoyed helping people,” reflected Miranda Schilling, a resident of Woodsfield and a freshman in the OVMC Radiologic Technology program. These words probably sound familiar to someone who chose a career in the healthcare field. For most, it really is as simple as that—some people just want to help others. And there are plenty of people who need help. The country’s aging population has led to an increase in the need for more healthcare professionals of all different specialties. In addition, technological advances, improvements in patient care and worker efficiency and cost containment efforts are also shaping the healthcare industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), between 2004 and 2014, seven of the 10 fastest-growing jobs in the U.S. will be in healthcare. Of the top 30 fastest-growing jobs, 17 are healthcare-related. In addition, the BLS listed several significant points in the 2010-11 Career Guide to Industries and noted: ? Healthcare provided 14.3 million jobs for wage and salary workers ? Healthcare will generate 3.2 million new wage and salary jobs between 2008 and 2018, more than any other industry In addition, specialties have grown immensely in areas like home health care. Home health aides are projected at the highest rate of growth, with 50 percent growth expected by 2018 according to the BLS. While the pay for home health aids is just above minimum wage, the plus side is the availability of jobs, and the fact that no college degree is required. Other specialties expected to grow by more than 30 percent by 2014 include medical assistants, dental assistants and physical therapist aides. Registered nurses, physicians, surgeons, licensed practical nurses, nursing aides and orderlies are among the fastest growing careers in healthcare. Young people have noticed this trend and are enrolling in a wide variety of healthcare programs including administration, nursing and radiology. Ohio University Eastern in St. Clairsville offers two undergraduate programs in health sciences. Assistant professor Joseph Hudak notes that health services administration is their largest program with 36 students currently enrolled. The program is largely business-oriented, and some students go on to graduate school or pursue another field if they are unable to find a job. The community health services major is science-oriented and prepares students more for duties within a health department as opposed to a hospital. Hudak states that the last two years have been more successful in placing students after graduation than in the past. “I have students working at Wheeling Hospital, Reynolds Memorial Hospital, OVMC, Genesis in Cambridge and Belmont and Jefferson County Health Departments, to name the ones I keep in contact with,” Hudak said. In an effort to keep pace with the aging population, OUE also offers a gerontology certificate for students who wish to work with the elderly. Hudak predicts that the health industry and gerontological services are and will be chief employers in the 21st century. Belmont College in St. Clairsville also offers an array of healthcare programs and certificate programs including nursing; medical assisting, coding, billing and transcription; mental health; emergency medical paramedic; and radiologic technology. “To date available jobs in healthcare have been adequate in numbers for Belmont graduates who want to work in the field, to find work. “There is a demand for healthcare workers both locally and nationally,” said Dr. Rebecca Kurtz, vice president for Learning and Student Success at Belmont College. “Many Belmont graduates go on to acquire jobs in our community, as well as regionally. “We also have graduates who accept jobs and relocate out of the area or go on to receive four-degrees. This indicates that the knowledge and skills acquired at Belmont are transferable.” Dr. Kurtz goes on to state, “Belmont’s Nursing and Allied Health Programs represent a large portion of the overall headcount. To meet the growing need for healthcare professionals, we are seriously considering expanding the type of healthcare programs that we offer. For example, with the entry of the oil and gas industry into our region, additional and specialized healthcare personnel may be needed to serve a corresponding anticipated expanded population.” Lisa Laird, a clinical instructor in the OVMC Radiologic Technology program and registered radiologic technologist, is always on the lookout for jobs for her students. Laird has been a radiologic technologist for 20 years and a program instructor for seven years, and she’s seen the healthcare field expand, thanks mostly to technological advances. “Technology is moving faster than we are,” said Laird. “It’s always changing, always growing.” The OVMC Radiologic Technology program takes 10 students every year. Over the past 13 years, students in the program have a 100 percent pass rate, and their students consistently rank in the 90th percentile on their national certification boards. The program also offers a new “fast track” that includes, in addition to radiology, CT and mammography modalities. After graduation, the popular choices of specialties are CT, mammography and oncology. Students also show an interest in ultrasound and some even work in radiation therapy. During their program tenure, students are encouraged to start their resumes. In addition, Laird says students start their portfolios during their first six weeks of training. This can give them a head start in the competitive job market after graduation. A large percentage of program graduates remain in the Ohio Valley and work in various places including hospitals, doctors’ offices, urgent care facilities, dentists’ offices and mobile companies that travel to nursing homes. Laird said that it doesn’t take long for program graduates to find employment—in fact, she believes that all of them are employed within six months of their graduation date. Many stay local; however, some have left the Ohio Valley. Laird says it depends on the specialty the student pursues and its availability. “I’m willing to stay around the area,” said Lacy Foster, a resident of Glendale and a freshman in the OVMC Radiologic Technology program. She noted, however, that she wanted to work in the healthcare field and would go wherever jobs were available, even if that meant leaving the area. When looking for a career, Laird, who is also a student recruiter, suggests volunteering in your chosen field first. “Get into the area you’re interested in and see it first hand,” said Laird, emphasizing that her advice transcends all fields, not just healthcare. “Do your research and know what you’re getting into.” Sage advice for anyone interested in entering the healthcare field. There are countless specialties, and the evolving technological improvements promise to lead to more expansion in the next few years. But don’t feel as if you have to be a young adult in order to take advantage of this growth in the healthcare industry. “I had a mother with five kids go through the program,” said Laird with a smile. “There is no age limit.” Hershberger can be reached at

Article Photos

Miranda Schilling of Woodsfield practices her x-ray positioning skills on fellow classmate Lacy Foster of Glen Dale, seated, while clinical instructor Lisa Laird observes. The students appreciate the hands-on approach they get throughout the 24-month program, as they rotate through the different modalities available to radiologic technologists, including mammography, ultrasound, CT and oncology. Said Foster of the program, “You learn things you can’t learn out of a book.”



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