Three new Idaho State University health sciences programs will add to Idaho’s workforce
By McKenzie Dalley, Pharmacy Career Path Intern | November 6, 2019
Master of Occupational Therapy at Meridian, Master of Counseling in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling and Master of Health Informatics-Online are only such programs offered in Idaho
POCATELLO - Idaho State University’s Kasiska Division of Health Sciences is stepping up to address increasing workforce needs in multiple health professions statewide by offering three new programs.
These programs recently approved by the Idaho State Board of Education are the Master of Occupational Therapy expansion to Meridian, Master of Counseling in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling and Master of Health Informatics.
ISU consistently looks for ways to help fill these gaps, in terms of programs and degree offerings, in order to better serve communities across the state and to ensure workforce demand is met.
ISU has the only graduate-level program for occupational therapy, the Master of Occupational Therapy, in Idaho. In 2019, this program admitted 18 students, the maximum for Pocatello, from an applicant pool of approximately 70 candidates. Studies have predicted these enrollment numbers for the Master of Occupational Therapy program will not be sufficient to meet the need for occupational therapists in Idaho, and it is predicted that the shortage will further expand over the next 10 years. The demand for occupational therapists in Idaho is projected to rise 25.4% between now and 2029, according to the Idaho Department of Labor.
In October 2019, ISU’s Master of Occupational Therapy expansion proposal was approved by the Idaho State Board of Education. The program will now move forward in working with the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education to add two more students in Pocatello, for a total of 20. Upon approval from Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, the program will also expand to the ISU-Meridian campus, where there will be 20 seats as well. This is an increase from 18 to 40 students in the Master of Occupational Therapy program in Idaho. ISU plans to bring on more faculty and staff to support this expansion as well.
ISU has also been approved to add a second new program – a Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling specialty area to the existing Master of Counseling. The current Master of Counseling has four specialty options including school counseling, student affairs counseling, clinical mental health counseling and marriage, couple and family counseling. All four specialties are offered in Pocatello, with the clinical mental health counseling program also offered in Meridian. The new specialty area curriculum will be offered in both Meridian and Pocatello, via distance learning, as many of ISU’s programs are offered in both locations. ISU will accept 12 students into the program each year, the only program of its kind available in the Pacific Northwest.
The University of Idaho-Boise currently offers a rehabilitation counseling program that will soon be shuttered. ISU Vice President for Health Sciences Rex Force says individuals in the ISU Department of Counseling kept a close eye on this development and were ready to step in to avoid any gaps in this program offering for Idaho students.
“The continuation of this program at Idaho State will avoid a lapse in training and make strides to increase the number of well-trained counseling professionals in Idaho as well,” Force said. “We appreciate the opportunity to help continue to meet the need for this particular workforce in Idaho.”
According to the Idaho Department of Labor, the projected growth of demand for this occupation is expected to increase by 15.5% over the next 10 years.
In addition, a fully online Master of Science in Health Informatics will now be offered as an alternative to ISU’s already established, traditional face-to-face version of this program. Over time, the face-to-face program will eventually be phased out when the online Master of Science in Health Informatics program is fully implemented. This degree “helps bridge the gap between the medical and administrative knowledge possessed by health care personnel and the information technology knowledge possessed by informaticists,” said Velma Payne, director for the program. The new online format will accommodate up to 20 students each semester.
At the same time, the curriculum will be enhanced to pursue accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management, which will allow students to prepare and sit for a number of health informatics certification exams. Currently, there are no Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management accredited online programs in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada or Washington, making the proposed online program from ISU more competitive. The proposed restructure and curriculum changes will support ISU’s program meeting the 2018 Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management accreditation requirements. Graduation from this type of accredited program is required to be eligible to sit for American Health Informatics Management Association professional certification exams.
“Overall, ISU is poised and committed to continue enhancing our program offerings in the health sciences directly in response to the workforce needs of Idaho and the United States,” Force said. “ISU remains the destination for health professions education in Idaho.”