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Sunday, 01 July 2012 14:44

Davenport looks to grow health talent pipeline with 3 new programs

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Davenport looks to grow health talent pipeline with 3 new programs Courtesy photo
CALEDONIA — An aging population that will increasingly require more care led Davenport University to launch a trio of graduate programs designed to elevate the health care talent level in the Grand Rapids area.

The new master's degree in nursing and master's in occupational therapy, plus a doctorate in physical therapy, are geared for people well into their careers and will offer a mixture of courses to enhance their clinical skills and enable them to move into administration or even higher in a management role.

"We're looking to have them fairly well-rounded as they come out," said Karen Daley, dean of Davenport's College of Health Professions.

The therapy program is the first doctoral degree Davenport will offer in health care.

By blending business courses such as health management, strategic planning, finance and budgeting into the graduate programs, Davenport wants to prepare some graduates to move on to running or starting their own business in physical or occupational therapy, Daley said.

"We'll give them the baseline knowledge they need to run their own business," she said. "As time goes by, they'll probably be managing their own rehabilitative or therapy center."

Davenport aims to launch the graduate nursing degree this fall at the Caledonia campus, pending final accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. The occupational and physical therapy graduate programs are targeted to begin a year later,Daley said.

The university is now evaluating prospects for program directors for the occupational and physical therapy programs. The program director will develop the curriculum and programming, Daley said.

Each graduate program will begin with a cohort of 25 or 26 students. Davenport could expand the capacity of each in the future as demand dictates. The university wants eventually to extend them to campuses in Southeast Michigan, a move that would have to wait a few years until the first cohort graduates in Grand Rapids.

Davenport University decided to launch the three graduate programs after market research found a high demand for each of the degrees. The talent demand is "extremely strong over the next 20 years" in occupational and physical therapy as the baby boomers age into their senior years and changes in health care are geared toward keeping people out of hospitals and treating them in a lower-cost outpatient care setting or in their homes.

"The focus in health care right now is how are we going to keep these folks healthy and in their homes?" Daley said. "This is the perfect time to train people to take care of this generation."

In nursing, the graduate program will enable licensed registered nurses to advance their careers further, whether in a clinical or administrative setting, and, if they wish, move into teaching, an area with a growing talent demand as baby boomers also begin to retire from the profession.

"There's an acute teaching shortage as well as an acute nursing shortage," Daley said.

One indicator of the talent demand in all three fields comes through data in the annual Health Check report issued in January by Grand Valley State University economists.

Using 2008-2018 projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, plus local graduation, retirement and turnover rates, GVSU projects employment for physical therapists in a four-county region around Grand Rapids to grow 26.7 percent during the 10-year span.

Employment for occupational therapists will grow a projected 23.3 percent, according to GVSU.

The Health Check report states employment for registered nurses will grow a projected 20.2 percent, requiring nursing schools in the region to further increase capacity to keep up with demand.

Davenport is considering additional programs in health care such as a master's in health management, Daley said.

"We really are looking at what the community needs," she said.

Read 2118 times Last modified on Sunday, 29 July 2012 22:22

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