With more than 500,000 jobs added since the start of the recession, it’s no surprise that allied health fields are forecasted to remain a key source of job growth. Jobs in inpatient and outpatient settings and nurse care facilities will be in high demand and the healthcare support industry (such as medical technicians, physician’s assistants and physical therapist assistants) are slated to experience 48% growth.
Involved with the delivery of health or related services, workers in allied health care fields include a cluster of health professions encompassing as many as 200 health careers. There are 5 million allied health care providers in the United States who work in more than 80 different professions representing approximately 60% of all health care providers. Yet, that number is no match to the number of allied health care workers that are 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 include acquiring procedural skills. With such explosive growth in allied health care career options and so many diverse fields from which to choose, it’s no wonder students preparing for their future are seeking opportunities in allied health fields.
Yet, with more than 5 million current allied health professions in the U.S. and more on the horizon, careful examination of the educational development and environment of emerging students identifies areas of needed improvement to meet the diverse needs of this ever-changing landscape.
A New Path of Education – Trends Affecting Allied Health Education
With student enrollment in allied health education programs gaining momentum, major advancements in technology coupled with shifts in education audiences, learner profiles, campus cultures, campus design and faculty development have spawned a new wave of 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 a few of the societal 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 U.S. Labor Department estimates that with the current economic climate, nearly 40% of the workforce will change jobs every year. As a result, the demand for short, accelerated educational programs is on the rise.
* With retirement being delayed until later in life, a “new age” of workers has emerged into the job market creating an older generation of students.
* Adult learners are the fastest growing segment in higher education. Approximately 42% of all students in both private and public institutions are age 25 or older.
* This highly competitive learning market allows educational institutions to specialize in meeting particular niches in the market.
* The number of minority learners is increasing.
* More women continue to enter the workforce – 57% of students are women.
Student / Enrollment Trends:
* Students are seeking educational programs that meet their individual demographics, schedule and learning style.
* More students are requiring flexibility in the educational structure to allow more time for other areas of responsibility.
* Students are attending multiple schools to attain degrees – 77% of all students graduating with a baccalaureate degree have attended two or more institutions.
* According to the Chronicle of High Education, traditional college campuses are declining as for-profit institutions grow and public and private institutions continue to emerge.
* Instruction is moving more toward diversified learner-centered versus self-directed, traditional classroom instruction.
* Educational partnerships are increasing as institutions share technology and information with other colleges, universities and companies to deliver cooperative educational programs.
* Emphasis is shifting from degrees to competency as employers place more importance on knowledge, performance and skills.
* Technology competency is becoming a requirement.
* Immense growth in Internet and technological devices.
* Institutional instruction will involve more computerized programs.
* Colleges will be required to offer the best technological equipment to remain competitive.
Classroom Environment Trends:
* Classroom environments are being designed to mirror real-life career settings.
* Flexible classroom settings geared for multi-instructional learning.
* Color, lighting, acoustics, furniture and design capitalize on comfortable learner-centered environments.
The Application of Knowledge – A Move Toward Lifelong Learning Concepts
To meet the ever-changing educational needs of students entering allied health fields, classrooms, curricula and teaching philosophies are becoming more responsive to the diverse settings in which varied populations are served. Educators and administrators are seeking educational environments that engage and connect students with their learning space to capitalize and foster knowledge, growth and learning.
Flexible Classrooms and Lab Space:
Adaptable learning environments that provide versatility to shift from classroom to lab space and the flexibility for plenty of future growth are the driving force behind allied health classrooms of the future. Modern allied health classrooms will provide flexible, multi-functional, comfortable classroom environments that encourage a sense of community, essentially inviting the students and instructors to work together and interrelate. Studies reflect that students are better able to actively process information when sensory, stimulation, information exchange and application opportunities are available. Flexible classroom spaces encourage students to share what they know and build on this shared base.
Connecting students with the “center of gravity” core spaces for studying and socializing further enhances the new wave of allied health campuses. Flexible student areas that foster circulation, interaction, collaboration and learning enhance various learning styles and further reinforce students’ abilities to harmoniously blend learning with discovery and collaboration