Educating Future Healthcare Professionals

ICC is stepping up to meet the workforce demand for careers in healthcare.

by Dr. Sheila Quirk-Bailey, Illinois Central College
Students practice surgical care with real tools and equipment.
Students practice surgical care with real tools and equipment. Photography by Jeffery Noble

The Greater Peoria region is home to a vibrant and thriving healthcare industry. From established institutions like OSF HealthCare, UnityPoint Health and the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria, to innovative research hubs like the Jump Simulation Center, Peoria provides top-tier healthcare services to approximately 375,000 area residents. Healthcare is responsible for employing more than 32,000 people and makes up 19 percent of the regional workforce. 

Careers in healthcare are in high demand—and Illinois Central College is helping to meet this demand by educating and training tomorrow’s healthcare professionals.

Hands-On Learning
On ICC ‘s Peoria campus, health career students experience real-world, hands-on learning in state-of-the-art medical facilities and simulation labs. These areas replicate a hospital-like setting, allowing students to train on the same medical equipment used in local hospitals and clinics. Here, ICC students hone and advance their skills, ultimately improving safety within patient care. 

ICC offers a range of flexible programs for traditional students and adult learners alike. Several are offered during evenings and/or weekends, allowing students to attend and complete a degree or certificate when it works best for them. A few programs can even be completed in a single semester, allowing students to join the workforce quickly and begin a career. 

While the trend for those interested in health careers is to enter the registered nursing program, ICC encourages students to consider the many other options as well. “There’s a multitude of job opportunities within hospitals, clinics, offices, long-term care and other community agencies—including medical lab technicians, certified medical assistants, respiratory therapists, radiographers and surgical technologists,” notes ICC Health Careers Dean Wendee Guth.

Students assess lung sounds on a simulated manikin.
Students assess lung sounds on a simulated manikin.

High-Demand Careers
Consider a few of the following programs offering high-demand careers and strong job outlooks:

Medical Laboratory Technicians perform common laboratory tests to examine and analyze results, helping doctors determine the right treatments for patients. The current median salary for medical lab technicians in our area is $47,186.

The Medical Office Administrative Assistant program is becoming increasingly popular, as job opportunities exist in a variety of settings including hospitals, pharmacies, insurance companies and long-term care facilities. These assistants are often involved in the business side of the office—as well as being the “face of the office.” The annual median salary is $32,302, with 230 job openings annually. 

Surgical Technologists assist in operations, under the supervision of surgeons or registered nurses. They set up operating rooms, prepare and transport patients for surgery, adjust lights and equipment, pass instruments to surgeons and surgeon’s assistants, and more. Surgical techs in central Illinois receive a median salary of $43,683. 

The Respiratory Therapist program at ICC trains students in the prevention, treatment, management and rehabilitation of people with lung problems. They measure the capacity and performance of patients’ lungs by conducting pulmonary function studies, along with giving aerosol medicines, maintaining artificial airways, and establishing mechanical breathing using ventilators. In our area, the current median salary for respiratory therapists is $61,792. 

Starting in Fall 2020, ICC will offer an associate degree in Health Information Technology, pending Illinois Community College Board approval. The addition of this program is based on requests from ICC’s regional healthcare partners and a 10-year labor market projection within the college district. This projection forecasts 271 new job openings in medical records and health information technology, with a median salary of $35,708.

ICC also offers health career programs leading to a certificate or degree in emergency medical services, such as EMT and paramedic, as well as dental hygiene, massage therapy, medical coding, nursing and radiography, to name a few. According to one 2019 ICC health careers graduate, “ICC was my smart choice because of the great value, even better instructors, and the fact that help was always available.”

A student prepares medication for administration.
A student prepares medication for administration.

Changing Lives
Gaining the knowledge to become a healthcare worker who touches lives is empowering and life-changing. Take it from ICC dental hygienist graduate Nicholas Moore. “I feel as though this ICC program has molded me in so many good ways,” he explains. “This not only betters me, but it betters each and every patient I will encounter in my lifetime. 

“Financially I have never really felt comfortable, but I truly believe this program has given me the education and assurance I need to obtain a career that will pay the bills and provide a good living,” Moore continues. “There isn’t a single doubt in my mind this program has changed my life forever!” PM

View the complete list of ICC health career programs at icc.edu/health-careers

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