NSU's public health program sparks interest

Northeastern State University has experienced a steady growth in interest and enrollment into medical fields since the start of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought changes to all levels of education, with secondary and postsecondary institutions having to work around issues the virus has created.

The ongoing health crisis has also sparked a greater interest in medical fields. At Northeastern State University, which started its new public health program just after the pandemic arrived, there has been a steady growth in enrollment, said Dr. Deborah Landry, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs.

One challenging aspect of educating medical students during a health crisis is the fact that health care facilities have shortages of personal protective equipment, while also dealing with a large number of patients infected with the virus. Many institutions have been forced to keep their students out of in-person clinical settings and find alternative ways to train prospective medical professionals.

“Students have experienced some limitations due to the pandemic, depending on the clinical setting,” said Landry. “For most programs, we utilized telemedicine and Zoom to conduct clinical work with our clinicians.”

Landry added that students have been flexible in adapting to the various challenges.

“For example, one master’s student in our nursing program planned to create a drive-thru flu immunization clinic last year for her capstone project, and then COVID-19 hit,” she said. “That altered her plans, and instead she focused her efforts on setting up a COVID-19 testing clinic. Now, they have moved on to working to help with an immunization clinic.”

The overall curriculum and required outcomes for NSU’s health programs have remain unchanged, said Landry. But the way the courses are delivered has evolved with the times, and online learning is a key element.

“Some face-to-face classes in lab settings required rotations of groups to limit the class size,” said Landry.

Health care systems across the country had already been experiencing shortages in qualified medical professionals for years. Last year, the Association of American Medical Colleges reported the U.S. could experience an estimated shortage of 54,100 to 139,000 physicians, including shortfalls in both primary and specialty care, by 2033.

But resources are available to help people enter the industry, and NSU has several options for future health care workers. In 18 short months, Landry said, students can complete a Master of Public Health in two specializations: global health and public health leadership. The didactic portion of the MPH program is 100 percent online, but students complete a 200-hour practicum in which they gain hands-on experience working directly with community partners.

There is also a certificate of public health available for NSU students.

“A certificate of public health at NSU is the perfect option for students who want to acquire a solid foundation of knowledge in the field of public health, but are unable to pursue a master’s degree,” said Landry. “Having a certificate of public health prepares individuals for positions in clinics, hospitals, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations that require advanced knowledge and practical skills beyond that of a bachelor’s degree.”

Check it out

To learn more about Northeastern State University’s degree and course offerings, visit nsuok.edu.

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