Colleges partnering in the creation of a regional medical training facility have already begun collaborating, the organization’s vice president said Wednesday.
While work renovating the Commonwealth West Healthcare Workforce Innovation Center facility has not yet begun, Vice President Bart Darrell said the plan is to have mobile classrooms ready this summer. Darrell said the nonprofit foundation will also begin purchasing and installing training technology and equipment at the Frederica Street facility this summer.
The center will train students in nursing, radiology, respiratory and lab work and other health-related professions. Students will finish their training either ready for a career in healthcare or with college credits that will give them a jumpstart pursuing other heath education.
“We don’t want these pathways to be dead ends,” Darrell said Wednesday.
The center is a partnership with nine colleges and universities, including Kentucky Wesleyan, Brescia University, Owensboro Community & Technical College, Western Kentucky University, the University of Louisville’s school of nursing, Owensboro Health Regional Hospital and several other campuses in the community college system.
The facility is funded with $38 million in the current state budget, through a bill sponsored by Rep. Suzanne Miles, an Owensboro Republican and member of the House GOP leadership.
Darrell said the partnership covers multiple counties across western Kentucky, with colleges sharing instructors and resources. The colleges will work with school districts to increase health care education, using advanced technology at the Owensboro facility and by teaching classes and leading labs.
The classes will reach students from elementary school through high school, Darrell said.
For students taking health-related classes, “They are going to have access to technology they’ve never had before,” Darrell said.
The center recently formed a nonprofit foundation, with board members made up of college presidents or their designees and other officials. The board met for the first time in February.
Work is being done to determine how the center can work with schools to bolster their already-existing healthcare-related classes, Darrell said. For example, the center will work with a school’s dual-credit classes that are health-related, or provide instructors and resources to enhance a school program where students prepare to become certified nursing assistants.
Classes will be taught at the center or virtually. The center will provide hands-on training through modern technology and virtual equipment that will provide students with the experience of working in a hospital or clinic setting.
“We are going to get these students prepared at a faster pace,” Darrell said.
The center’s funding is held by the state community college system, for release at the center’s request. The center staff will release requests for proposals for two mobile labs/classrooms and for technology for the center in the near future, with the plan to have both by this summer.
Healthcare has shortages of workers across the spectrum, from nurses and technicians to doctors, Darrell said. When asked if there was an appetite among students for careers in medical fields, Darrell said the center will work with schools to expose them to potential careers and to give students an idea of what those careers might be like.
“It’s understandable there will always be careers in healthcare,” Darrell said. “We would like our people in western Kentucky to be on the cutting edge of that.”
With the center’s partnership with schools, “I think you’re going to see a lot of people have that light come on, ‘This is (a field) that is exciting to me.’ ”
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