Originally created 03/05/02

Health training gets boost



LANGLEY - The continuing shortage of people trained in health care and the sciences has many people worried.

South Carolina technical colleges are hoping some brick and mortar will help.

At a groundbreaking ceremony Monday, Aiken Technical College President Susan Graham unveiled the school's design for a $7.5 million health and science education building.

The two-story, 40,000-square-foot facility will hold classrooms and laboratories for classes in oral health, nursing and other fields.

The building is part of a two-pronged attack on the problem that is facing the nation and South Carolina - a shortage of nurses, clinicians and technicians in health care fields.

Across the state, six technical colleges are spending almost $34 million to build similar buildings, said Lawrence Ray, a spokesman for the South Carolina Technical College system.

The second part of the solution, he said, will be better communication between hospitals and technical colleges, which help staff emergency rooms and care units around the state.

Ms. Graham and other presidents of state technical colleges will meet with hospital administrators in Columbia on March 13 to discuss how to get more students into health- and science-related classes.

Eight of the 20 fastest-growing occupations in South Carolina are health- and science-related. That, and the fact that the average age of the nation's registered nurses is 49, means that by 2010 many baby-boomer health care practioners will be retiring.

The problem can be solved, just not quickly, said Richard Satcher, the chief executive officer of Aiken Regional Medical Centers.

"I think the problem is getting people interested," he said.

Aiken Tech's new building likely will be finished in the summer of 2003, and officials say they hope the state lottery, which is to pay for free tuition at the schools, will push enrollment.

Recruitment was hurt by downsizing hospitals in the past decade, Mr. Satcher said.

Reach Matthew Boedy at (803) 648-1395 or matthew.boedy@augustachronicle.com.