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Health Care Field Expands in Region

By LINDA COMINS

Staff Writer

As innovations in medicine are implemented, careers path in the health care field continue to expand. In addition, as the Upper Ohio Valley’s population ages, opportunities increase for health care workers in geriatric-related specialties.

Vincent Azzarello, senior director of human resources at Wheeling Hospital, said, “The medical field as a whole is growing and there is always a need.”

Primed to meet that need, area institutions such as West Virginia Northern Community College offer instruction and practical experience in many medical fields. Donna Hans, professor of nursing and chair of Northern’s health science division, said program enrollment remains stable and graduates are able to find jobs. “Employability rates seem high … Placement rates are really great,” she said.

Demographic figures point to an aging population in this area, which means demand for health care is growing, she said. In addition, many nurses are getting ready to retire. As result, she said, “We need students and graduates.”

With the area’s aging population, “a lot more offices are going up and are being staffed by medical technologists,” said Michele Watson, director of WVNCC’s administrative and clinical medical assisting programs. Health care professions attract both men and women, said Bonnie Peterman, director of the college’s surgical technology program.

At Wheeling Hospital, registered nurses and surgical technologists are the primary positions to be filled, Azzarello said, adding, “RNs across the organization are always our need.”

Currently, the hospital is recruiting actively for cardiac care technicians because of the expansion of its cardiac cath lab, he said. When a larger facility is built to replace the existing Bishop Hodges Continuous Care Center on the Medical Park campus, the hospital will need more licensed practical nurses and other medical professionals, he said.

“We’re always looking for good people,” Azzarello said.

While direct patient care is important, he thinks housekeepers, dietary staff and maintenance workers are just as important to the patient care experience.

Chelsea Coleman, a Wheeling resident and second-year radiography student at Northern, said, “I’ve always been interested in X-rays.” After working as a medical assistant and X-ray technician in Wheeling, Pittsburgh and in Florida for seven years, she decided to go back to school to study radiography.

“I enjoy taking care of people and giving back to my community. It’s a very fulfilling job,” Coleman said. After graduating, she hopes to work in a hospital setting.

Misty Kahl, director of the radiography program, said the speed of producing X-rays and the quality of those images have improved dramatically since digital imaging replaced the use of film. “It’s instant, plus it (images) can be transmitted to multiple places at once for multiple physicians,” she said.

Alana Myers of Wheeling is a first-year student in Northern’s surgical technology program. She said, “Surgeries excite me. I’m a hands-on, ‘people’ person and I like making people feel better.”

Previously, Myers worked in Philadelphia as a certified nursing assistant, emergency medical technician and home health care worker.

Explaining her move to surgical technology, Myers said, “It’s more exciting. It’s something to look forward to every day. I plan on continuing my education and maybe one day being a physician’s assistant. The more experience, the better, is how I see it.”

Citing the diversity of nursing in community settings, Hans said many nurses are continuing their education to become nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners and nurse educators.

In addition, Hans said, “Home health is a very dynamic program — that is expanding. With patients being discharged to home much sooner, often it is the home health nurse who goes in and assesses their care.”

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