Vol State Races to Stay Current in Health Sciences Technology
Medical technology is an important tool for doctors and often a blessing for patients, but it can also mean a race for colleges, as health educational programs must move quickly to keep up with the latest techniques and equipment. The Volunteer State Community College Health Sciences Division keeps track of developments in twelve different fields. “It is tough for the college to keep up with changing technology,” said dean of Health Sciences, Elvis Brandon. “On average, there are major changes in technology every five years. In order for our students to learn how to use technology, we need what is being used in the clinical setting.” One of the ways the college stays abreast of technological changes is through program advisory boards. The boards are made up of professionals working in that particular field. “One of the questions always asked when we meet with our program advisory boards is if our students have any identified weaknesses,” said Brandon. “If our students are not able to use the technology that they see in the clinical setting, our program advisory board members let us know.” The Ophthalmic Technology program has brought on three new cameras and two new Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) machines in recent months. “There’s a great deal of imaging in this profession, which a lot of people may not realize,” said Dr. Alisha Cornish, director of the Ophthalmic Technology program. “The imaging helps us to diagnose and track eye disease.” Cornish shows how new slit lamp and fundus cameras can photograph the front and back of the eye. In addition, the program’s OCT machines are like a CT scan for the eye, which scans the eye to give detailed information on the anatomy of the eye. The Vol State Ophthalmic lab is also equipped with multiple ophthalmic ultrasound machines and a wave front analyzer that images the cornea. “In our field technology is constantly changing. Older technology is still utilized in some places, but doctors rely on the newer equipment, like the OCT,” Cornish said. “That’s the forefront of ophthalmic technology.” “I’m a 2013 graduate. We had good equipment, but not the OCT machines or cameras the program has now,” said clinical coordinator Samantha Schiller of Hendersonville. “You need to understand the equipment to get the right image. When our students go to clincals, they are very prepared.” The clinical assignments are held in doctor’s offices and hospitals across the area. It’s there that students will use the hands-on skills they develop in the Vol State lab. “When people call us about clinical jobs they list what equipment they want the person to have had experience with,” Schiller said. “We’re preparing students to have a broad range of knowledge and experiences, so they can go into any ophthalmic specialty area,” Cornish said. “They will see this equipment in the majority of offices they go into.” The race continues in the other Vol State Health Sciences programs. A specially designed building on the Gallatin campus provides the lab space and technology for students to also stay current in areas such as emergency medical technician (EMT), ultrasound, sleep diagnostics and medical laboratory technology. Vol State has one of the top radiologic technology programs in the region and that means wireless computerized radiography. New equipment can run into the six-figures. “Sometimes we find grants that we can use to purchase equipment,” Brandon said. “Other times, the Vol State College Foundation will approach our clinical partners for assistance with funding. We also have support from individual donors. We’re always looking at new technology and working to find new funding sources for that technology.” The true test of success for Vol State Health Sciences comes in the field itself, when student secure jobs and are successful in the workplace. “The job demand is huge for our graduates,” Cornish said. “We can’t keep up with demand.” “Ophthalmology is a field that is always changing,” said Schiller. “That’s why I chose the program; you keep growing with it.” For more information on Health Sciences programs at Vol State please visit www.volstate.edu/HealthSciences ### Pictured: Samantha Schiller is examined with the slit lamp ophthalmic camera by Dr. Cornish. It includes a projection system so students can see exactly what the operator is imaging.