The need for healthcare professionals entering the workforce was amplified as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the rise in the number of hospitalizations across the state, North Carolina community colleges looked for innovative ways to address the workforce gap. At Blue Ridge Community College, health sciences students were able to expedite their clinical requirements and were quickly employed in the healthcare industry, thanks in part to a Golden LEAF-funded simulation lab.
In 2016, Golden LEAF awarded $1,013,242 through the Community-Based Grants Initiative to provide simulation lab equipment and related technology and furnishings for the community college’s new Health Sciences Center. The equipment included lifelike mannequins that simulate different medical procedures and reactions to those procedures, which students are able to use in place of some of their clinical experiences. Blue Ridge Community College, Pardee Hospital, Henderson County Public Schools, and Wingate University collaborated to help bring the state-of-the-art center to life.
As with so many sectors, the pandemic presented new and unique challenges for the community college’s allied health training programs. Partnering institutions were not able to allow students to complete clinicals on their premises due to the lack of available personal protective equipment (PPE) and other safety protocols.
“We were very fortunate to have the simulation labs funded by the Golden LEAF Foundation to supplement student’s clinical experiences,” said Leigh Angel, Dean of Health Sciences at BRCC. “Our nurse aide and nursing programs stayed on track, without delays in graduation.”
Students were able to obtain licensures early and start working two weeks before graduation. All 39 students in the senior health sciences cohort graduated. Many had jobs before graduation. The two previous cohorts of Associate Degree in Nursing students had 68 graduates, with 60 finding full time employment in their field. The program has also helped train 178 incumbent workers.
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