Wiregrass Tech Health Science Programs Rising to the Top as Construction Underway for New Facility
A term we have heard over and over again in 2020 is “essential workers.” On average, 25% of Wiregrass Georgia Technical College graduates are “essential workers” employed on the front lines in health care fields working to keep you, your families, friends and your community safe during the pandemic. Health Care employees are in high demand pretty much everywhere and to answer this demand Wiregrass is constructing a new Health Sciences Building on the Valdosta Campus. The building is slated to open Spring of 2022. The high-tech building will have 96,100 gross square feet and provide much needed up-to-date classroom and lab space for the college. Programs that will be housed in the new building include; Associate Degree in Nursing, Nursing Technician, Biology Labs, Chemistry Labs, Dental Assisting, Dental Office Assistant, EMS Professions, Medical Assisting, Neuromuscular Therapy, Opticianary, Paramedicine, Patient Care Assisting, Pharmacy Technology, Phlebotomy, Advanced Patient Care Assistant, Radiologic Technology, Practical Nursing, Dental Hygiene, and Surgical Technology. Valdosta and Lowndes County serves as the regional medical center for South Georgia with more than 79 healthcare entities including hospitals, home health agencies, nursing, and assisted living facilities in the area. More than 650 physicians’ offices are located within the region employing thousands of medical personnel. Many of these facilities have a constant shortage of qualified healthcare personnel. Employee turnover due to job changes, promotions, retirement, relocation, or termination cause a shortage in every area of the healthcare sector.
In 2020 three of the college’s Health Science programs received special recognition on both state and national levels for their commitment to quality education. The Pharmacy Technology program was ranked 8th in the nation and 3rd in the state by Pharmacy Technician Guide. This distinction is based on a combination of tuition cost, quality of education, graduation rates, and student friendly services offered by the schools. The Medical Assisting Associate of Science Degree was ranked number 1 in the nation and state according to the Med As- sistant EDU. Wiregrass’ Degree program was recognized for having an outstanding record of student success including a five-year job placement rate of 99% and a contemporary curriculum standard developed with the guidance of business and industry leaders. The site also pointed out how easy it is to transfer credits to the college and universities within the University System of Georgia. For the second time the college’s Associate of Science in Nursing (RN) program was ranked number 1 in the state by the NursingProcess.org. The college is ranked among other technical colleges and four-year colleges and as based on the students’ National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN) pass rates.
During the early stages of COVID in 2020 when face to face instruction was prohibited most of the program’s accrediting bodies allowed flexibility in instructional methods and relied on the expertise of faculty to make changes within certain parameters in order to allow continuation of education. The faculty did a truly remark- able job of transitioning, in a very short amount of time, from a typical hands-on environment of education to a virtual or online format. The courses were quickly set up to be delivered online both synchronously, and asynchronously. College faculty also had to determine the best way to teach lab concepts which are typically demonstrated and practiced until proficiency is achieved. Many of the programs found software that could be used to simulate labs and became very creative with adapting home supplies to be used for demonstrating purposes. The program’s accrediting agencies also allowed a set number of clinical hours to be completed in an alternate format and/or a deferment was granted. Limited labs began meeting again face to face following recommended COVID guidelines in late May. Students were allowed back on campus in small groups utilizing lab areas. By Fall 2020, most labs hours were made up and students were back on track toward graduation.
Wiregrass is privileged to have outstanding community partners that allow, invite, assist, and encourage students to be on site for clinical training. There are around 98 clinical sites that are used by varying programs with larger partners being South Georgia Medical Center and Coffee Regional Medical Center. Many of the clinical sites also support the programs through scholarship opportunities and/or through student recognitions. The college serves 11 counites in South Georgia and is proud to have many of the area clinics, acute care facilities, labs, pharmacies, physician practices, mental health facilities, and long-term facilities as partners. Thanks to their partnerships the college is able to offer outstanding programs. Very early on in the pandemic many of the clinical partners allowed students to return as long as all proper protocol and PPE were made available to students. This allowed most of the programs to keep students in sequence and complete graduation as planned.
The college recently held a special topping off ceremony for the new building while recognizing supporters for their generous donations to the college. Guests were able to sign the beam for the topping off ceremony for the new Health Sciences Building. The beam was on display prior to the ceremony for college students and employees to sign along with members of the health care field and graduates. At the ceremony Wiregrass President Dr. Tina K. Anderson thanked Dr. Ed and Rhonda Mark for their generous donation to the college and announced the new building will be officially named the Edward and Rhonda Mark Health Sciences Building at the grand opening. She also thanked South Georgia Medical Center for their support of the college’s health sciences programs and for helping with a generous donation in support of the college’s new LPN to RN Bridge program that is housed on the Valdosta Campus. Their donation will provide superior equipment in the new building for many years to come. For more information about the college’s program and or to see how you could become a Wiregrass supporter, visit http://www.wiregrass.edu.