The State of Health Care: Dr. Angela J. Bowen Center for Health Education

SPSCC and the SPSCC Foundation announced its acquisition of the Louis Walker Middleton building on Jan. 16, 2019. The event included remarks from SPSCC president Dr. Tim Stokes, SPSCC Board of Trustees Vice Chair Leonor Fuller, and Executor of the Estate of Angela J. Bowen and SPSCC Foundation Board Member Ted Schultz.

Marriya Wright, Dean of Allied Health & Nursing, South Puget Sound Community College

The soon-to-be-completed facility will give Allied Healthcare and Nursing program students hands-on, state-of-the-art experiences to prepare them for the medical field.

SPSCC’s Healthcare pathway encompasses an impressive array of programs in dental assisting, medical assisting, nursing and more.

A recent interview with Dean of Allied Health and Nursing, Marriya Wright, revealed a wealth of new developments and emerging trends in these vital programs. On the cusp of the remodel completion of the new Dr. Angela J. Bowen Center for Health Education, there is a lot to be excited about.

In this Q & A conversation, Marriya Wright, Dean of Allied Health & Nursing discusses some of the unique strengths of SPSCC’s Healthcare pathway.

Q: What is new in the Allied Health and Nursing Program?

Dean Wright: This is an exciting time for us for many reasons.

We will also start reviewing applications for those students who have applied for Fall Quarter in the Medical Assisting program. We are excited this is taking place in our first year after receiving National Accreditation for the Nursing program in July 2021. That means we now have three nationally accredited programs, including our Dental assisting and Medical assisting programs.

We are very excited to see the new facility for Allied Health and Nursing, the Dr. Angela J. Bowen Center for Health Education, so close to completion. It’s a beautiful learning environment and will have the most up-to-date equipment to give students access to the experiences they will need to be prepared for the field.

Q. What makes the Healthcare pathway at SPSCC unique?

Dean Wright: One of the things that makes our programs unique is our dedicated faculty. Not only do we have over 75 years of collective experience among our faculty, we also have graduates from the Allied Health and Nursing program who have worked in the health care field and returned to SPSCC to teach.

Our alumni not only feel prepared to be a part of the critically needed workforce when they graduate, they often become our ambassadors. In many cases they are preceptors and externs for our students at the hospitals and clinics where they work.

All of our students have some form of preceptor or externship experience. Students have the opportunity to go out and work alongside of a nurse, dental assistant or medical assistant for up to 198 hours of work time so they can see what it is really like before they begin their careers as a new graduate.

Another thing that makes us unique is that our nursing program uses a lottery system as part of our admissions process, which serves to remove barriers and increase numbers of diverse student applicants—including male nurses and students of color. We only require students to meet what is necessary for success.

Q: What are you looking forward to most about the remodeled space for the new Dr. Angela J. Bowen Center for Health Education?

Dean Wright: Our team has had a chance to tour the space and it is absolutely wonderful! One of the most exciting parts of the building is the Simulation suite where students will experience a hands-on simulation of a hospital room for a variety of different patient settings. The medical assisting lab is welcoming and bright with lots of light and color. It’s simply stunning.

The center will also house a testing site for the Washington State Nurse Aide Training Program and we are adding two new beds. Because of the layout of our building students will want to test at our facility. We are looking to grow in this new space.

Q: How have COVID restrictions impacted opportunities for students to learn?

Dean Wright: We have learned a lot. For example, our students are learning about new trends in PPE and when to use what masks. Our Medical assisting students are also learning about telemedicine, which is a growing area of health care.

When the pandemic hit, nursing students across the state were shut out of clinical sites for hands-on learning, which cut off the workforce pipeline. So being able to have sophisticated simulations helps open doors for students to get the hands-on experience they need in a realistic and safe learning environment.

Our Dental assisting program took a big hit when the pandemic first started because all dental offices had to be shut down due to the type of contact required by the procedures. Preparing for reopening required not just COVID testing, but we also had to do fit testing for masks and upgrade our HVAC systems to ensure safety compliance. But the moment the governor allowed dental offices to be reopened and we had made the necessary safety upgrades, our clinic was back open and ready to support students and the community.

Q: What new trends are you seeing in the health care field, and what are some other ways students are prepared to enter the workforce?

Dean Wright: The nursing, dental assistant, and medical assistant shortages are real. Students who graduate from our programs are in very high demand. Our alumni make us proud and they are doing amazing things out in communities. Our professors are using the most up-to-date, evidence-based material. We start utilizing it so that students know what an evidence-based practice looks like and they know how to research and find out what’s going on.

Right now, in the state of Washington there is a need for mid-level providers in dentistry. We have one of four programs in this state that offer training for that. Our program is called the Expanded Function Dental Auxiliary (EFTA) and only 15 students at a time are accepted into the program because it requires a very detail-oriented, one-on-one type of training.

SPSCC healthcare pathways are vital to the workforce in our region and we are excited to provide state-of-the-art learning opportunities to ensure our students are prepared to meet the needs of the community.

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