Iowa Lakes investing in allied health offerings

Saturday, April 28, 2012
Students in the Surgical Tech program at Iowa Lakes Community College are training in classrooms simulating the work environment they hope to become employed in. The Spencer campus recently made a major investment in both the Surgical Tech and Medical Assistant programs, using budgeted college dollars and funding from the Iowa Values Fund. (Photos by Randy M. Cauthron)

On the heels of last summer's science lab addition to the Iowa Lakes Spencer campus, the local community college used funding from the Iowa Values Fund to supplement a budgeted expansion to the facilities serving students in the Surgical Tech and Medical Assistant programs.

Mary Faber, director of Iowa Lakes' Spencer campus, acknowledged her center's reputation as an allied health education hub.

"It's known for nursing, but there a lot of other jewels to be found," Faber said.

The establishment of the full-service science lab was key in the expansion of allied health opportunities.

"That was the key to helping us provide those science classes which are the basis for the allied health programs," Faber said.

The Surgical Tech program has been around for 11 years and the Medical Assistant program even longer. The upgrades to the "learning classrooms" for each of the long-standing programs were a long time coming.

"The Spencer campus in general has been evolving," Faber said. "At some point, there was some interest in establishing some innovations and we're lucky that they located them here."

Faber continued, "From the medical assistant standpoint, they were used to a sparse area that incorporated very few either medical or office type equipment. Now they have gone to two fully stocked doctors offices, and an X-ray unit and lab space to do those medical tests that we are instructing students to do."

The new space allows the students a first-hand opportunity to work in simulated medical office.

"The Medical Assistant program prepares students for a variety of roles within the medical setting. We are very excited about these lab renovations because the space is designed to replicate medical facilities, including front office, exam areas, professional work stations, radiology and lab, which enhances the hands-on learning experience," Val Curry, Medical Assistant coordinator, said.

The Surgical Tech program, taught by Dana Grafft, also had a meager classroom setting initially.

"It was one of our top priorities in both of these redos that we replicate what they're going to experience in the real world," Faber said.

She added, "One of the things that surprised me was how important it is for a student to gown and glove. They practice it 100 times so they really get what a surgery tech person, from the get-go, needs to do."

Faber also noted the multiple instruments students must learn based on the different surgical procedures.

"It's been a tremendous asset to have these surgical suites," Faber said.

The programs, which each offer clinical experience, have become a draw for a wide range of students.

"They have great flexibility. You can work in a wide range of fields. We get traditional and non-traditional students; students who have been in other fields, students with four-year degrees - we have a math teacher in our surg tech program."

Faber said the school is confident the new medical training classrooms will serve the students well.

"We toured other colleges and looked at what they provided in other areas, and we met or exceeded the other facilities we looked at. ... It helped us frame what we wanted to do and what we could do to match the funding. It allowed us to come up with some very good lab programs for both," Faber said.

She continued, "Anyone is welcome to come out and view the facilities. We are so tickled to have these here on the Spencer campus. Anyone who wants a tour, we would welcome that."

Both the Surgical Tech and Medical Assistant programs are accredited. The cap on the number of students is 20, and they are halfway to the cap for next fall already. The Medical Assistant program is able to allow for more students.

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