Investing in future health

Published 10:34 pm Friday, February 27, 2009

Take a drive down Harbour View Boulevard in North Suffolk and one thing is abundantly clear: Healthcare is a booming business. And the growth that economic sector is experiencing is hardly confined to that part of our area or even this part of the nation.

As more of America’s baby boomers reach their senior years, the importance of health-related industries promises to continue growing. So, also, the number of jobs to be found in those industries. In fact, estimated in November that employment in the healthcare sector grew by 350,000 jobs in 2008, while the rest of the private sector shed about 1.7 million jobs.

Virginia’s community colleges are stepping in to help fill a shortage of healthcare professionals that existed even before the baby boomer generation started to come of age.

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At Paul D. Camp Community College, regular nursing classes turn out dozens of graduates every year who are ready to lend their skills to the industry. A recent Health Career Fair on the college’s Franklin campus had the goal of connecting students with potential employers and educational institutions offering higher degrees.

At Tidewater Community College in Suffolk, students in the nursing program are celebrating the news that their 97.9-percent pass rate for the test that certifies registered nurses led the entire state. That means TCC’s nursing students did better on the exam than students in Virginia’s 28 other associate-degree programs, as well as its 16 baccalaureate programs.

TCC’s program also is preparing for a boost when it moves into its new facility at the school’s new Portsmouth Campus in January. There, students will have access to state-of-the-art technology, separate classrooms and all-new furniture and fixtures.

“When the students go to the new building, they will think they have died and gone to heaven,” Denise Bell, head of the community college’s nursing program, told a reporter recently.

It’s a great investment to help train the people who are charged with helping their patients to postpone that heavenly trip as long as possible.