An aging population, emerging technologies, medical advances, and healthcare reform are reshaping the healthcare industry and creating an increased demand for skilled labor in both clinical and non-clinical positions. In Connecticut alone, healthcare practitioner and technical positions are expected to grow almost 10 percent over a 10-year period, ending in 2024, and about 24,000 new healthcare jobs will be added (according to the Connecticut Department of Labor).
To address the projected shortfall of skilled applicants for current and future healthcare positions, the College of Health and Human Services at Southern has launched a new interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science degree program in Healthcare Studies.
“This program provides students with foundational skills that are essential in today’s healthcare settings, introduces them to a wide range of current and emerging entry-level healthcare careers, and provides specialized training required to succeed in those positions,” said Sharon Misasi, director for the Healthcare Studies program at Southern. Misasi brings more than 30 years of higher education and healthcare experience to her position.
“We built this degree program with input from major healthcare employers in our region including Yale New-Haven Health Systems and Griffin Hospital,” said Angela Ruggiero, coordinator of administration for the Healthcare Studies program. “Our local healthcare employers are seeking bachelor-level trained employees to fill both clinical and non-clinical positions.”
Sandra Bulmer, dean of the newly-named College of Health and Human Services at Southern, took great care to ensure that faculty worked closely with industry professionals to create a degree program that provides students with excellent job opportunities upon graduation.
“I am very proud that our faculty and staff have created a program that meets the needs of current healthcare employers and has built-in flexibility to respond to the rapidly evolving healthcare sector and the specific interests of our students,” Bulmer said. “In addition to completing Southern’s very comprehensive liberal education program, every student will graduate with core knowledge and skills in areas that include but are not limited to healthcare systems, patient-centered care, medical ethics, health informatics, health and lifespan psychology, and disability awareness.”
Healthcare Studies students will also use up to 34 elective credits to obtain more specialized skills in areas that are important to healthcare employers including clinical research, project management, health informatics, data science, medical Spanish, recreation therapy, aging services, digital media, and public health.
Beyond training students for a range of careers in this burgeoning industry, the new Bachelor of Science degree in Healthcare Studies provides students with a strong foundation for graduate degree programs in health and human services disciplines or accelerated bachelor’s degree programs in nursing. This program serves as an ideal bachelor’s degree completion program for working healthcare professionals who already have an associate degree and are seeking more advanced academic credentials that can lead to career advancement and admission to clinical graduate programs.
The College of Health and Human Services at Southern is uniquely positioned to deliver this interdisciplinary degree program. The College is one of four major academic divisions within the university and employs approximately 100 full- and 400 part-time faculty in disciplines that include nursing, communication disorders, social work, marriage/family therapy, public health, movement sciences, physical education, athletic training, respiratory care, recreation, and sport management.
“Many of our faculty are currently employed in healthcare settings and provide our students with outstanding practice-based learning experiences and employment connections,” Bulmer said. “And we are in the process of hiring additional faculty and staff to serve the needs of our rapidly growing student population.”
“This program will serve as a critically important source of employees for the growing healthcare sector in Connecticut,” Misasi said. “Our faculty are deeply committed to ongoing communication with our regional healthcare employers. We plan to continually update our curriculum as needed to ensure that we are meeting the needs of healthcare employers, patients, families and communities.”