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Allied Health Education Trends – The Changing Landscape Behind the Scenes
With more than 500,000 jobs added since the recession began, it’s no surprise that allied health fields are projected to remain a key source of job growth. Jobs in hospital and outpatient settings and nursing care facilities will be in high demand, and the health care support industry (such as medical technicians, physician assistants, and physical therapist assistants) is expected to experience 48% growth.
Involved in providing health or related services, workers in the allied health care fields comprise a group of health professions that include up to 200 health careers. There are 5 million allied health care providers in the United States working in more than 80 different professions representing approximately 60% of all health care providers. However, this number falls short of the number of allied health care workers needed to meet current and future needs in America.
Highly regarded as experts in their field, allied health professions fall into two broad categories – technicians (assistants) and therapists/technologists. With education requirements and curriculum varying depending on the chosen field, academic prerequisites range from less than two years for technicians to a more intensive educational process for therapists and technologists that includes acquiring procedural skills. With such an explosive growth in allied health career options and so many different fields to choose from, it’s no wonder that students preparing for their future are looking for opportunities in the allied health fields.
However, with more than 5 million current allied health professions in the US and more on the horizon, careful examination of the educational development and environment of developing students identifies areas of improvement needed to meet the diverse needs of this ever-changing landscape. .
A New Path to Education – Trends Affecting Allied Health Education
With student enrollment in allied health education programs gaining momentum, major advances in technology along with changes in education audiences, learner profiles, campus cultures, campus design, and faculty development have ushered in a new wave trends that are dramatically affecting where and how allied health students learn. Understanding the dynamics of allied health trends begins by taking a brief look at some of the social and economic factors that have affected the educational landscape as a whole.
* With the economy in a recession, the nations workforce is being challenged to learn new skills or explore advanced training options.
* The US Department of Labor estimates that in the current economic climate, nearly 40% of the workforce will change jobs each year. As a result, the demand for short and accelerated educational programs is increasing.
* With retirement delayed until later in life, a “new era” of workers has entered the labor market creating an older generation of students.
* Adult learners are the fastest growing segment in higher education. Approximately 42% of all students in private and public institutions are 25 years of age or older.
* This highly competitive learning market allows educational institutions to specialize in fulfilling particular niches in the market.
* The number of minority students is increasing.
* More women continue to enter the workforce – 57% of students are women.
Student / Enrollment Trends:
* Students are looking for educational programs that meet their individual demographics, schedule and learning style.
* More students require flexibility in the educational structure to allow more time for other areas of responsibility.
* Students are attending multiple schools to earn degrees – 77% of all students graduating with a baccalaureate degree attended two or more institutions.
* According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, traditional college campuses are declining as for-profit institutions grow and public and private institutions continue to emerge.
* Learning is moving more towards diversified learner-centered learning versus traditional self-directed classroom learning.
* Educational partnerships are growing as institutions share technology and information with other colleges, universities and companies to offer collaborative educational programs.
* Emphasis is shifting from degrees to competencies as employers place more importance on knowledge, performance and skills.
* Technological competence is becoming a requirement.
* Tremendous growth in the Internet and technological devices.
* Institutional instruction will include more computerized programs.
* Colleges will be required to provide the best technological equipment to remain competitive.
Classroom environment trends:
* Classroom environments are being designed to reflect real-life career settings.
* Flexible classroom settings tailored for multi-lesson learning.
* Color, lighting, acoustics, furniture and design benefit from comfortable learner-centered environments.
Applying knowledge – A move towards lifelong learning concepts
To meet the ever-changing educational needs of students entering the allied health fields, classrooms, curricula, and teaching philosophies are becoming more responsive to the diverse settings in which diverse populations are served. Educators and administrators are seeking educational environments that engage and connect students to their learning space to capitalize on and foster knowledge, growth, and learning.
Flexible classroom and laboratory space:
Convenient learning environments that provide the agility to move from the classroom to the lab space and the flexibility for much future growth are the driving force behind the allied health classrooms of the future. Modern allied health classrooms will provide comfortable, flexible, multi-functional and comfortable classroom environments that encourage a sense of community, essentially inviting students and instructors to work together and interact. Studies reflect that students are better able to actively process information when sensory, stimulating, information sharing and application opportunities are available. Flexible classroom spaces encourage students to share what they know and build on this common ground.
Connecting students to essential “center of gravity” spaces for study and socialization furthers the new wave of allied health campuses. Flexible student areas that encourage circulation, interaction, collaboration and learning enhance diverse learning styles and further enhance students’ abilities to harmoniously blend learning with discovery and collaboration.
Integration of advanced technology:
The use of technology in the classroom plays a vital role in how students learn and the long-term effect of the knowledge gained. When students use technology as an educational tool, they are in an active rather than passive role in a typical teacher-led lesson. Integrating advanced technology into an allied health classroom allows students to be actively engaged in generating, retrieving, manipulating, or displaying information. Through this process, students are empowered to define their goals, make decisions, and evaluate their progress. Along with student-applied technology, classrooms are being equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and tools to prepare students for the transition from classroom to career.
Lecture / Laboratory and Classroom Models:
Building High Performance: As allied health programs shift to include collaborative, interdisciplinary classrooms and clinical experiences that reflect real-life settings, students are empowered to move beyond mastery of skills to lifelong learning concepts. By creating classroom models that take students directly into their chosen field and allow them to “step into” their chosen career in a classroom setting, students are essentially provided with a “business practice” that prepares them for the career their far beyond the traditional textbook curriculum. Bridging the gap between textbook knowledge and the application of “real world” experiences is the foundation of new allied health classroom environments.
Every school day 50 million children and 6 million adults enter our schools nationwide; each of which is directly affected by the physical environment. And, while most people have heard of the benefits of sustainable design from an energy-saving standpoint, few truly understand the benefits gained from a student performance standpoint. High-performing schools have several distinct advantages:
* Highest test scores. Studies are confirming the link between the physical condition of a school and student performance. Factors such as increased daylight, indoor thermal comfort, and indoor air quality will improve learning which equates to improved test scores.
* Increase in average daily attendance. Indoor air quality plays a vital role in student health. By controlling sources of pollutants, providing adequate ventilation, and preventing moisture—all designed to reduce sources of health problems and prevent the spread of airborne infections—students and teachers will experience fewer sick days, especially for those who suffer from breathing problems or asthma.
* Reduction of operating costs. High-performing schools are specifically designed, using life cycle costing methods, to minimize long-term facility ownership costs. Using less energy and water than standard schools means lower operating costs. The savings can then be redirected to supplement other budgets such as computers, books, classes and salaries.
* Increasing teacher satisfaction and retention. Designed to be pleasant and effective places to work and learn, high-performance classrooms are visually pleasing, offer the right thermal comfort and benefit from effective acoustics for teaching. A positive and engaging place to work and learn improves overall satisfaction for teachers and lays the foundation for improved learning and student retention.
* Reduced environmental impact. High performance buildings are specially designed to have low environmental impact. They are energy and water efficient, use sustainable, non-toxic materials that have a high recyclable content, and use non-polluting renewable energy to the greatest extent possible.
In short, we have an obligation to equip our students to do the difficult work before them.
A Vision for the Future
With the rapidly changing landscape of education as a whole, taking on the challenge of designing multi-functional educational facilities means more than just designing a building. From technology to curricula, campus structure to classroom environments, those involved in planning, design and construction must be committed to providing solutions that meet the unique needs of today’s students.
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