Nov. 29—CROOKSTON, Minn. — When Julie Hinders was looking for a position similar to her previous job as director for the Upper Iowa University's master of healthcare administration program, she saw the University of Minnesota Crookston's online health management program. The college's reputation, resources and location in the Midwest appealed to her.
She became the program's new director, and the same week she started, the program was named the sixth best of its kind in the nation.
"It was very exciting and it solidified for me that I've made a good decision," Hinders said.
The online health management program was chosen among 7,700 for the list by EduMed.org, a website that works with higher education and health care experts to give students information about possible programs from colleges and universities in the U.S. EduMed collected data from these schools, as well as from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data system, to look at multiple factors. Among them: Academic counseling services, tuition, career placement services and amount of school-based aid per student. It also required the school to hold active regional accreditation and have at least one partially online program, according to a press release.
EduMed's outreach coordinator, Wes Harris, said in the release that online courses are important for their accessibility, especially when it comes to making them more available to students as the shortage of health care professionals increases.
"One solution to the health care shortage is making higher education more accessible to students," he said. "Online programs open the door to those who may not be able to commit to a campus-based program because of their typical inflexibility, the commute or their personal demanding schedules. The schools on our rankings have made online learning a priority."
Hinders agrees that flexibility, as well as affordability, is the highlight of Minnesota Crookston's program. She said there are a high number of nontraditional students in the program, such as those who work and are aiming to improve their skills. It's important to meet the students where they are, Hinders said. For those who don't already have careers, Hinders notes that a health care job doesn't necessarily mean working in a hospital.
"I'm always trying to get students to realize that working in health care doesn't mean you have to work in a hospital," she said. "That's the first thing most students think of. ... But that's only one sector of health care — it's so broad. ... There are so many behind-the-scenes positions that need to be filled, whether it's a clinic, a nursing home, a hospital. We're really trying to prepare students to take on leadership roles within health care."
As the new director, Hinders plans to further grow the program. Some of that includes hiring another full-time faculty member, streamlining the internship process, reigniting a health care advisory board and applying for re-certification for accreditation with the National Association of Long-Term Care Administrator Boards.
Through working to improve the program, Hinders hopes to help meet the nation's health care needs. With an aging nation, there's a higher demand.
"We have to band together as an industry to try to combat the workforce shortages," she said.