Answering the Call
TAGS: Health Sciences

A Look at AIC’s School of Health Sciences

Students attend college for a number of reasons—to pursue an interest, to achieve future financial security, to discover who and what they want to be as adults. Most students in American International College’s health sciences programs, however, seem to arrive at college (and pursue their degrees) with a more focused goal: to dedicate themselves to helping others achieve the health and well-being that will allow them to lead full and complete lives. A health science education, as well as a career in the healthcare industry, requires a diligent commitment; but for those who have the drive, it’s more of a calling than a job.

AIC understands this passion. The College’s School of Health Sciences has emerged in recent years as a regional leader in providing the type of small-class, hands-on learning environment that best prepares students to meet the challenges of an ever-changing and increasingly vital industry. This is crucial, because as the country’s population grows and ages over the next decade (particularly the “baby boomer” generation born between 1946 and 1964), the need for quality healthcare services will only increase; and as this happens, the need for highly trained professionals to provide such care will concurrently surge.

It’s a significant responsibility, but one that AIC is in an ideal position to meet.

“We have a very distinctive collection of programs,” says Cesarina Thompson, PhD, RN, ANEF, dean of the School of Health Sciences. “And they’re all under one roof, which makes us very unique. Students can come here and prepare themselves for a number of fields in health, from working with people when they’re healthy to keeping them healthy, to working in the broad realm of sports, to direct, hands-on care, such as that provided by nurses and physical and occupational therapists.”

AIC’s health sciences programs include bachelor’s and master’s programs in nursing (recently ranked among the top 50 in New England by Nursing Schools Almanac), a bachelor’s program in public health, a master’s program in occupational therapy, and a doctoral program in physical therapy.

In addition, an occupational therapy doctorate (OTD) program was added to the school in the fall of  2016.  A master’s degree program in exercise science will be added in the fall of 2017, and a program in athletic training will follow in 2018.

“These are the fields that will be seeing growing demand for qualified professionals in the years to come, and advanced degrees will be needed to succeed,” Thompson notes. “AIC is committed to meeting these needs.”

occupational therapy students stretching
Photo courtesy of BusinessWest

Specialized Education, Holistic Approach

We have a very distinctive collection of programs. And they’re all under one roof, which makes us very unique. Students can come here and prepare themselves for a number of fields in health, from working with people when they’re healthy to keeping them healthy, to working in the broad realm of sports, to direct, hands-on care, such as that provided by nurses and physical and occupational therapists.

Each of the programs within AIC’s School of Health Sciences offers its own specialized coursework, fieldwork, and training; however, interdisciplinary collaboration and communication are key aspects of AIC’s educational approach that faculty emphasize throughout a student’s education. To help with this process, students are exposed to a “continuum of care,” a system by which students across various fields are brought together in myriad ways so that they can understand the continuum of healthcare, what other professionals do, and how they work with others.

“The focus is on learning what each of us does, what each person’s role is in caring for that patient, and what value each professional brings to the process of caring for a patient,” Thompson explains. “This is very important because, as technology advances, it is ever more important for professionals across a wide array of healthcare disciplines to communicate with one another and, yes, work with one another to provide needed care at the various stages of a patient’s life. Inter-professional work and inter-professional collaboration are a big focus today.”

Another focus that each program emphasizes is providing students with a range of real-world experiences, either through hands-on learning in on-campus labs and clinics, or through internships with local healthcare partners, including Baystate Medical Center, Mercy Medical Center, and Hartford Hospital.

The emphasis has paid off, as the School’s latest job placement rates for both nursing and physical therapy are at 100%, with occupational therapy following closely behind at 90%.

While the financial benefits of such numbers are apparent, the added benefit for the vast majority of graduates is that they can immediately achieve their goal of making an impact in their community by providing compassionate care and working on the cutting edge of medicine.

For more on the School of Health Sciences and the programs offered, visit www.aic.edu/school-of-health-sciences.

A Look at the Numbers

an occupational therapy student in a walker and harnessA recent ranking of “the 100 Best Jobs for 2016” by U.S. News and World Report found the list dominated by careers in health sciences areas, including those in nursing, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.

The rankings looked at several factors, including median salary, employment rate, job growth, stress level, and work-life balance, and found such positions as physician assistant (#5), nurse practitioner (#6), and physical therapist (#14) both financially solid and rewarding. In fact, healthcare positions took up 28 jobs on the list, ahead of both jobs in business (17) and technology (8).

U.S. News’ methodology attempted to find a balance between hard data and testimonials collected by people currently in their respective fields. “Good jobs are those that pay well, challenge us, are a good match for our talents and skills, aren’t too stressful, offer room to advance and provide a satisfying work-life balance. [The jobs on the list] are ranked according to their ability to offer this mix of qualities.”

The rankings support data collected in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) for 2016–17. According to the OOH, 13 of the top 20 fastest growing occupations between 2014–2024 will be health science-related fields, including careers specific to programs offered through AIC’s School of Health Sciences—occupational therapy assistants (#2); physical therapist assistants (#3); physical therapist aides (#4); nurse practitioners (#7); physical therapists (#8); and occupational therapy aides (#11).

To read more about the U.S. News and World Report’s findings, visit http://money.usnews.com/careers/best- jobs/rankings/the-100-best-jobs. For more information on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook visit: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/.