Trine plans health sciences expansion

November 29th, 2018

By Doug LeDuc | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly

Trine University is going to make recruiting easier for the region’s health care employers by expanding its medical education offerings and making them available to more students.

The plan to do more with Trine’s Rinker-Ross School of Health Sciences in Fort Wayne over the next several years will involve adding new degree programs and include increasing the number of students in its master of physician assistant studies and doctor of physical therapy programs.

Trine shared 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics data in an email showing the Fort Wayne Metropolitan Statistical Area employed 1,330 physician assistants, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, radiologic technologists and surgical technologists last year — all occupations potentially affected by its medical education program expansion.

To prepare students to begin working in hospitals, clinics and practices as soon as they graduate, the university has arranged for more clinical as well as classroom instruction in several medical disciplines.

“Each of our clinical programs requires the support of our clinical partners,” Max Baumgartner, Rinker-Ross dean, said in an email. “We have fortunately developed excellent partnerships with care providers both regionally and nationally. We have worked closely with these providers to ensure that every one of our students will have quality clinical education experiences that will prepare them for a successful career in their chosen field.”

The program expansion will have a swift, direct impact on the quality of patient care when it launches online classes allowing registered nurses to upgrade their level of medical education from an associate to a bachelor of science degree.

A Burning Glass Technologies analysis of shifting workforce credential requirements looked the educational level expected for 1.3 million registered nurse job postings from Sep. 10 last year through Aug. 31 this year.

It showed nurses with an associate degree qualified for 52 percent of open nursing jobs, while BSN nurses qualified for 93 percent, Baumgartner said.

“To meet future health management requirements, recent public policy recommendations emphasize the need for more highly educated nurses, with the Institute of Medicine recommending that 80 percent of all nurses hold a BSN by 2020,” he said. “Each employer will take its own approach to meeting its needs for appropriately qualified nurses.”

Business Weekly has reported in recent years on the region’s shortage of doctors and nurses. Physician assistants can help doctors care for more patients, so increasing their numbers in the region can help alleviate the impact of the physician shortage.

“We know there is a great need for medical personnel to serve an aging population,” Earl Brooks II, Trine’s president, said in a statement on its health sciences expansion. “By providing students in new areas of the health sciences with the career-focused training and practical experience that are already hallmarks of a Trine education, these new programs will help meet that need, as well as offer opportunities for graduates to be readily employed.”

The university plans to occupy more space at its Health Sciences Education Center at 1819 Carew St. on the campus of Parkview Health’s Randallia Drive hospital in Fort Wayne to accommodate the program expansion.

“Parkview Health has been a tremendous partner for Trine University, providing expertise, facilities, student internship opportunities and financial support,” Brooks said. “The expansion of our ongoing collaboration will not only benefit Trine and Parkview, but all residents of northeast Indiana.”

“Trine University’s expansion of health sciences is an important step toward meeting the growing need for quality healthcare professionals in our region,” Rick Henvey, chief operating officer for Parkview Health, said in the statement. “Parkview has benefited greatly from Trine’s outstanding doctor of physical therapy program, and we are hopeful we’ll be able to employ more Trine graduates with expertise in many other critical fields.”

Henvey also serves on Trine’s board of directors.

The timeline for the expansion is:

Fall 2019

  • Trine University’s DPT program will expand from 35 to 45 students per class.
  • The university’s MPAS program will expand from 28 to 32 students per class.
  • Trine will launch a master of applied health sciences program. The MAHS, which will offer the option for completion with as few as 30 graduate credit hours, can be customized to fit students’ career goals. It will fulfill admission requirements for most medical, dental, veterinary, and graduate programs in biological sciences, and also allow graduates to specialize in biomechanics and prepare for employment as a biomechanics lab technician.
  • Trine will launch an associate of science in surgical technology program. The program will train graduates to assist in surgical operations under the supervision of surgeons, registered nurses or other personnel in authority.

Fall 2020

  • Trine will launch the previously announced physical therapy assistant program.
  • The MPAS program will expand to 36 students per class.
  • Trine University will launch a doctor of occupational therapy program. Designed to prepare students for advanced roles in occupational therapy, the degree will allow graduates to work with clients as well as lead and conduct research as occupational therapy professionals.
  • Trine University will launch a master of science in anesthesia program. The degree will prepare graduates to become certified anesthesiologist assistants, providing services under the direction of physician anesthesiologist to patients undergoing surgery and other procedures.
  • Trine will launch an online RN to BSN program, which will allow registered nurses to complete a bachelor of science in nursing degree.
  • Trine will launch associate of science and bachelor of science in radiologic technology programs, which will prepare students to work in radiologic imaging fields.

Fall 2021

  • Trine will launch a master of speech language pathology program, which will prepare graduates to practice as speech language pathologists in areas of communication and swallowing. According to the Bureau of Labor Services, speech language pathologists in Indiana consistently have one of the highest caseloads in the United States.

To help with curriculum for the expansion, longtime Trine professor Ryan Dombkowski was appointed to its health sciences leadership team as an associate dean of Rinker-Ross.

In addition to Baumgartner, he will be working with Cathy Swick, dean of its undergraduate programs, to direct the expansion and guide its program development.