A $3 million federal grant will allow Rogue Community College to train about 460 more students in the medical field over the next three years to address shortages of qualified workers here. RCC will use the U.S. Department of Labor grant to offer new courses for physical therapy and clinical lab assistants and for certified nursing assistants in acute care, dementia care and restorative care.
All certifications can be earned over one or two years, meaning students can move quickly into the workforce to address shortages cited by Jackson and Josephine counties' largest health-care employers, RCC officials say.
"We could produce a lot of jobs here if we do this right," said Marilyn Watkins, regional nurse coordinator for Providence Medford Medical Center, part of a workforce committee formed to address the shortages. "I think, for Southern Oregon, this is one of the best things I've seen happen. We're really, really happy to see this."
The money will help hire new instructors and boost the number of students served in existing programs, RCC officials said.
"It is a big deal for the college," said John Osbourn, dean of RCC's School of Health and Public Service. "It's one of the largest grants we've probably ever received."
The new classes are expected to start in fall 2013. The certified nursing assistant training will focus on CNA2, specifically, a position that requires more advanced training than traditional CNAs. CNA2s are trained in patient monitoring and some diagnostic skills in addition to the usual patient hygiene and care CNAs provide.
"That is something pretty much unique to Oregon," Watkins said.
Students enrolling for physical and occupational therapy certifications will do general education and practicum credits locally and receive some additional classroom instruction at Lane Community College.
Enrollment capacity for RCC's existing nursing assistant program also will increase, and RCC's Basic Health Care certificate will be offered online as a "self-pace" program, meaning students have the option to advance through the training faster.
RCC officials have been working over the past year to develop training that supports the region's health care workforce. The efforts have been headed up by the Rogue Valley Health Care Workforce Committee. Committee members include the Asante Health System, Fairview Transitional Health Center, Providence, Rogue Valley Manor, Royal Gardens Health & Rehabilitation Center, the Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics and Valley Immediate Care, along with RCC, Southern Oregon University and the Job Council.
Osbourn said he doesn't think RCC would have received the grant without letters of support from the committee.
"I felt like we had a good proposal, and we had exceptional employer-partner support," he said.
The Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant is part of $500 million in federal grants awarded to community colleges and universities nationwide, intended for innovative training and education programs. RCC was the only Oregon community college — and one of 27 colleges nationwide — to receive an individual grant for the project.
"This is really part of RCC's vision, which is to build partnerships with our local community, and workforce providers and employers," Osbourn said. "We were ecstatic."
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.