Pima Community College Health Professions Center of Excellence

Building a Workforce

By Rodney Campbell

Pima Community College consistently makes significant contributions to improve local healthcare.

The college’s health professions programs annually graduate approximately 800 students. Health Professions Dean says if those grads could see an average of five patients a day, it adds up to more than 1 million interactions each year in a variety of disciplines, including dental studies, fitness and wellness, nursing, pharmacy technology, phlebotomy, respiratory care, surgical technology, medical assistant and medical lab technology.

“That is the equivalent of the entire population of Pima County that one group of graduates will see each year,” Martin said. “We graduate a new group each year that will do the same thing.”

Next spring, those students will come together at the expanded Center of Excellence for Health Professions on the West Campus. The 80,000-square-foot facility, which is scheduled for completion by Oct. 31, will consolidate the college’s healthcare programs in a single location. The expansion will improve core services, create a community room, improve access to the facility and allow for better, more efficient use of instructional technology resources. The move will improve the efficiency of the use of common resources, such as disposable healthcare supplies.

Martin says students will benefit from working more closely with peers, allowing them to learn better together.

“The programs have historically been assigned to various campuses and deans,” Martin said. “This separation has prevented the implementation of interprofessional education, an approach to learning where individuals from different professions come together to learn with, from and about each other. The aim is to enhance collaboration and improve patient outcomes by fostering mutual respect, understanding and effective communication among healthcare professionals.”

Completing their work at Pima College isn’t the end of studies for many graduates. Many of those students transfer to four-year colleges and complete a bachelor’s degree or post-graduate degree in healthcare or healthcare administration.

Martin estimates that more than 90% of Pima College health professions graduates stay in Southern Arizona to help their friends and neighbors find high-quality care.

“Research has shown that an individual who completes their education locally is much more likely to stay in that community,” Martin said. “This has the effect of elevating the entire community. It also helps to address the issue of access to healthcare in communities where there has traditionally been a lack of practitioners.”

Martin said most of Pima College’s healthcare programs have stayed at the same capacity for the last 10 to 15 years while healthcare workforce needs have expanded. The expansion puts the college in a position to address the need to meet growing demand.

“The expanded space will increase the capacity of our programs, providing more opportunities to learners in our communities to enter high-paying stable careers in healthcare,” he said. “This has the added effect of providing more workers to begin to try to fill the gap that has been created by baby boomers retiring from healthcare and the ‘Great Resignation’ initiated by the pandemic.”

More quality graduates also means better healthcare options across the region. Those million patient interactions each year could grow and even improve in quality.

“Expanding our capacity will not only allow more people to access jobs in healthcare, it will also allow more people to access the healthcare they need,” he said. “What we do at PCC and in the Center of Excellence in Health Professions truly impacts the lives of our communities and beyond in a very real, physical way.”

Most of the construction costs for the new center, approximately $24 million, was paid when the college issued revenue bonds in 2019. PCC received another $2.5 million from congressional funding, thanks to Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema.

Martin believes the results will more than justify the expense.

“This expansion and improvement in technology will allow the PCC Center of Excellence in Health Professions to offer professional development and upskilling to the current workforce and our institutional partners in the Pima County and Southern Arizona healthcare community in ways that were not possible previously,” he said. “This new opportunity will improve the quality of healthcare for our community and improve the efficiency of the healthcare delivery system, saving time and lives and promoting a higher quality of living.”

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