College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services looks to future at health summit

May 13, 2009

The College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services at Indiana State University hosted a health summit Tuesday (May 12) to address regional workforce shortages. College administrators planned the event to gain a broader perspective in adding new programs to address the health care needs of west central Indiana.

More than 100 professionals attended the event at the Landsbaum Center for Health Education, representing health care and community agencies from across the region. The summit was designed to create a dialogue as the college considers new programs, said Richard “Biff” Williams, dean of the college.

“We want to start a conversation so we can understand the regional and state needs and how we at Indiana State can meet them,” Williams said.

Indiana State created the college in 2007, merging the existing colleges of Nursing and Health and Human Performance. The move strengthens and supports training in the health professions through collaboration. As the college continues to grow and expand, a new vision for the future has developed.

“We’re focusing on developing new programs, strengthening existing relationships and building new relationships,” Williams said.

To that end, the college is considering new programs including physical therapy, physician assistant, health administration, a doctorate of nursing practice and an addiction specialist certificate. Feasibility studies are being planned to study the possibility of adding podiatry and pharmacy, as well.

Participants gathered in small groups to share their ideas and opinions on how to measure success, barriers in recruiting and retaining health care workers and initiatives needed to address workforce shortages. Input gathered from participants will be used as the college moves forward in the planning process.

“The summit was designed to increase our awareness and gain input; the programs we are considering are not set in stone,” Williams said.

A key component of awareness is data. Terry Zollinger, associate director of the Bowen Research Center, presented a health and human workforce study at the summit. The center is the research arm of the Department of Family Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine. ]

“Understanding the health profession work force in the region is a lot like solving a puzzle,” Zollinger said. “It is a challenge, but it can be addressed.”

Continuing the puzzle analogy, Zollinger emphasized that when it comes to addressing the work force shortage it helps to seek input from those with experience, it takes time and missing pieces can ruin the effect. He encouraged an interdisciplinary approach among educators, health care providers and community agencies.

“It’s not a problem that one organization can solve by itself,” he said.

Dr. Judith Monroe, state health commissioner, attended the summit and said such gatherings underscore a need for collaboration in addressing health care workforce issues.

“I applaud the conversation taking place here in Terre Haute,” she said. “When it comes to workforce development, none of us can do this alone. Leadership is necessary at all levels.”

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Contact: Richard “Biff” Williams, dean, College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services, Indiana State University, 812-237-3683 or biff.williams@indstate.edu

Writer: Emily Taylor, assistant director of media relations, Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or etaylor16@indstate.edu