Nov. 2-8: Allied Health Professions Week Health Career Opportunities Are the Best Ever, UAMS Dean Says

By todd

UAMS offers degrees and/or certificates in 16 health-related professions – one of the largest selections of allied health programs at a university in the United States.
Winters points to results of recent studies by UAMS and by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics indicating that many key allied health professions are experiencing shortages in Arkansas and throughout the country, and these shortages are expected to increase over the next five to seven years.

Since its establishment in 1971, the UAMS college has graduated almost 4,200 students – most of whom have remained in Arkansas to practice their chosen professions – and currently has 540 students enrolled in its various programs.

Preparing to observe Allied Health Professions Week (Nov. 2-8) at the college, Michael Anders, M.P.H., R.R.T., director of student affairs, said three allied health professions with critical shortages are paramedics, respiratory therapists and medical technologists. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2010, our country will have 97,000 job openings for paramedics and emergency medical technicians, 66,000 job openings for certified and registered respiratory therapists, and 60,000 job openings for medical technologists.

The CHRP Department of Emergency Medical Sciences (EMS) trains emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics. These health care professionals evaluate and treat acutely ill and injured pre-hospital patients. EMTs provide basic life support, while paramedics provide advanced life support.

“The EMS Department’s paramedic program is one of only two such programs in the state that is nationally accredited,” Anders said. “Students who choose to train at UAMS also benefit from a nationally award-winning faculty and strong clinical resources. Over the past few years, two of our EMS faculty members, Dennis Mitchell and Tim Rinehart, have been named ‘Instructor of the Year’ by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. In addition, by training in central Arkansas, students have the opportunity to work on a very broad range of patient cases. They interface with the emergency departments at many of the state’s major health care facilities, including UAMS and Arkansas Children’s Hospital.”

In the CHRP Department of Respiratory Care, students can study to become certified or registered respiratory therapists. Respiratory therapists perform diagnostic and therapeutic procedures on patients with heart and lung disorders – including asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, sleep disorders, cystic fibrosis, premature newborns and heart attack.

“Our Respiratory Care Department offers the state’s only bachelor’s degree program for people who want to become registered respiratory therapists,” Anders said. “The department offers this program both in Little Rock and at the UAMS Area Health Education Center (AHEC) in Texarkana. By successfully completing the bachelor’s program, students are certified in advanced cardiac life support, pediatric advanced life support and neonatal resuscitation. Students who want to be certified respiratory therapists can earn their associate’s degrees at the UAMS AHEC in Pine Bluff.
“Once UAMS students become respiratory therapists, they have many diverse work environments from which to choose. Respiratory therapists are needed in emergency departments, intensive care units, neonatal intensive care units, asthma clinics, sleep disorders labs, pulmonary function labs, medical helicopters and high-risk obstetrics health care teams.”

The CHRP Department of Medical Technology prepares graduates to analyze blood, spinal and other body fluids to provide essential data for diagnosing and treating medical conditions. The work of medical technologists includes identifying disease-producing bacteria, preparing blood for transfusion and analyzing serum. In addition to hospitals and clinics, medical technologists play a vital role in crime labs and health departments.

“For students who are interested in pursuing a medical technology career, but need some financial assistance, our department offers several options,” said Kathleen Mugan, M.Ed., M.T., the CHRP interim director of medical technology. “We have two student scholarships – the M. Gene Hall Medical Technology Scholarship and the Sharon Edwards Gibbert Memorial Scholarship. The Hall Scholarship is given twice a year and provides almost the full tuition for one semester; it is awarded based on the student’s academic achievements, community service and recommendations from faculty. The Gibbert Scholarship is given once a year to a senior student and is based primarily on academic merit. Also, our medical technology graduates can have one year of their student loans forgiven, up to $2,500, for each year they work in the medical technology field in Arkansas.” Both UAMS and the college offer other kinds of financial assistance to students who qualify.

Other allied health professions with severe shortages are radiologic technology, diagnostic medical sonography nuclear medicine technology, health information management and surgical technology.

CHRP’s recent student recruitment efforts for all of its disciplines have included sending a recruiter to visit high schools throughout Arkansas to make students, teachers and counselors aware of the allied health programs that UAMS offers. The college has also been participating in two annual programs that bring high school and junior high school students to UAMS to learn about careers in the health sciences. Both of these efforts are supported by the results of a focus group in which current CHRP students said they wished they had known about the UAMS allied health programs when they were in high school, so they could have decided on their careers before entering college and could have focused on the needed prerequisite college courses.

Other allied health disciplines within the UAMS CHRP are the following:

• Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology: These two types of allied health professionals deal with communication disorders. Audiologists measure hearing and identify, study and treat hearing disorders. Speech-language pathologists diagnose and treat speech, language, voice and fluency disorders.

• Cytotechnology: Cytotechnologists prepare samples of cells and microscopically study their size and shape to determine if they are normal, inflamed, precancerous or cancerous.

• Dental Hygiene: Dental hygienists prevent oral disease by cleaning teeth, applying fluoride and sealants to teeth, taking and developing oral X-rays, and providing dental care and nutritional counseling to patients.

• Diagnostic Medical Sonography: Diagnostic medical sonographers perform a specialized type of imaging that uses high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to produce cross-sectional views of internal organs and structures for diagnosing a variety of medical conditions and diseases.

• Dietetics and Nutrition: Dietitians assess nutritional needs, plan and implement nutritional care, and provide dietary counseling to assist in the prevention and treatment of numerous diseases.

• Health Information Management: These allied health professionals compile, code, analyze and prepare health information for patients, health care facilities, the public, agencies that pay claims, physicians and other health care team members.

• Medical Dosimetry: Medical dosimetrists use computers and three-dimensional images to calculate the proper doses of radiation for individual patients receiving radiation therapy.

• Nuclear Medicine Technology: Nuclear medicine technologists prepare, administer and measure radioactive tracers to study normal and abnormal body functions and to treat certain diseases. Radioactive tracers are elements that, when given to patients, emit a low level of radiation that can be detected outside the body. Positron emission tomography (PET) may be part of an NMT’s practice.

• Ophthalmic Medical Technology: Ophthalmic medical technologists help diagnose and treat eye disorders by measuring the eyes and calculating basic corrections for nearsightedness and farsightedness; creating ophthalmic photographs to document retinal and corneal lesions; assessing color vision abnormalities; measuring eye muscle function; and assisting in ophthalmic surgery.

• Radiation Therapy: These allied health professionals have a technical knowledge of cancer treatment that enables them to perform or assist in the calculation, delivery and documentation of radiation therapy.

• Radiologic Technology: Radiologic technologists perform a variety of radiographic (X-ray) procedures to help in the diagnosis and treatment of various medical conditions. They also may perform magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT).

• Surgical Technology: Surgical technologists are responsible for having the appropriate equipment – surgical instruments, sterile bandages and linens, fluids – ready for surgery. They also hand needed instruments to physicians during surgery and account for the sponges, needles and instruments that are used in the procedures.
For more information about CHRP programs at UAMS, call (501) 686-5730 or visit