By Barbara R. Fallon

Whether you are a freshly graduated, enthusiastic high school alum, a seasoned health care practitioner looking to climb the management ladder, a transitioning career student or a returning to the workforce parent seeking to embark on your dream of a health career, Miami Dade College has designed custom programs to meet your needs. They offer more than 300 distinct degree pathways including associate and baccalaureate degrees, career certificates and apprenticeships through an accredited academic portfolio of online, on-site, flexible pace and hybrid activities.

Miami Dade College Medical Campus President, Bryan Stewart, Ph.D., arrived in 2018 to lead plans to upgrade the health curriculum clinical experience via a simulation hospital on the Medical Campus and graduate students with a live-from-the-workplace knowledge that balances academics with contemporary field experience. That started during the first quarter of 2019 when more than 1,600 students participated. Approximately 60% nursing-bound and close to 40% other health science students were immersed in a faculty-guided, technology enhanced real-world hospital environment of safe practice to reduce errors, correct mistakes, improve safety, breakdown traditional professional silos and enhance interprofessional collaboration, minus the real-world consequences of practice learning … ultimately elevating the quality of patient care.

Now, as an early entrant into the simulation field, MDC serves as a beta test site for Gaumard. a leading simulation manufacturer who seeks student and faculty feedback on state-of-the-art, lifelike mannequins, contemporary scenarios and other virtual techniques that mirror medical-surgical, obstetrical, trauma and home care delivery. The Medical Campus located in the heart of Miami Health District, a hospital mecca, gives students a higher level of experience and opportunity for input prior to clinical rotations and eventual employment in the world of ambulatory, hospital, clinic and mobile pre-hospital settings.

But first, during 2020, COVID-19 hit the world and left an indelible imprint on health care academics and delivery.

“Beyond the disruptive restrictions the pandemic brought – halting or at least curtailing many clinical student experiences – our health care partners claim it threw the spotlight on the plusses that our students brought to both their patients and staff which impacted delivery of care,” Dr. Stewart said describing the strategy of incorporating workplace knowledge into the academic curriculum.

“I no longer have sleepless nights worrying about cementing enough clinical partnerships to provide rotations for our students, because they are now in heavy demand,” he explained.

According to Dr. Stewart, not only does this education style enhance the patient experience in hospital and alternate clinical settings, but this real-world experience heightens the students’ grasp of academic theory-in-action and improves their job marketability. Providers seek to hold on to their best ‘alums’ and smooth the road toward their move to employed staff practitioner roles. Students can rotate through clinical models, test the waters of local institutions in an on-the-job (OTJ) capacity, learn about generic industry and individualized clinic philosophies of care, immerse themselves in relationships with OTJ mentors and feel comfortable with job decisions when entering the work force because they learned in a safe atmosphere that encourages independent thinking and embraces learning missteps.

Jobs in trauma centers, surgi-centers, academic hospitals, dental and vision clinics, and rehabilitation facilities offer flexible career access to all types of specialties from pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology to cardio-vascular, orthopedics or cancer care.

And the same concept is applied by seven full-time faculty fire battalion chiefs who share the mobile world of Emergency Medical Training with students through rotations available at 200 stations, shadow rides in ambulances and seeing first-hand trauma and pre-hospital communications and mobile-in-the-field evaluation and care guidance to bridge the gap with emergency departments that are disaster-ready to speed care for incoming victims.

With approximately 400 students engaged on the Medical Campus and 10,000 additional students taking pre-requisites on eight campuses, the 140 full time faculty and 600 adjunct faculty teach and monitor the academic concept in practice and are creating a pipeline to address current practitioner shortages. For example, the Benjamín León School of Nursing with technical, certificate, licensed, and bachelor degree accredited programs, grew 23% last year toward its 3-year goal of 40% growth, according to Stewart.

“Our medical campus is an incubator for future health experts while MDC dental and vision clinics, not only train students but provide affordable care to the community,” Dr. Stewart said. “Furthermore, when practitioners seek continuing professional development to transition to the administrative focus of health care, we offer health care management studies highlighting a behind-the-scenes view of managing health care delivery including finance, operations, marketing and quality management issues,” he explained.

Other innovative technology is available to 25 different health sciences courses including respiratory therapy, histology and clinical lab, physician assistants, medical coding and health informatics, EMS, and veterinary studies.

“Finally, 14 of the newly hired faculty in 2022 were graduates who have returned to teach others based on their own experiences; so, we continue to pay it forward,” Dr. Stewart said.

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