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First Graduates Earn Bachelor of Science in Health Professions

Photo of three Mayo School of Health Sciences students

Chelsey M. Mahoney, Jessica A. Wojcik and Marissa R. Morris will graduate from the Bachelor of Science in Health Professions program in 2014.

In 2013, 13 students — the first graduating class under a unique partnership — received both a certificate from Mayo School of Health Sciences and a Bachelor of Science in Health Professions (BSHP) degree from the University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR).

The BSHP program was created to respond to the health care industry's need for professionals who can handle new technologies and the increased complexity required by specialization.

"I thank UMR leadership for their collaborative spirit and their ability to recognize the value of allied health education," says Claire E. Bender, M.D., dean of Mayo School of Health Sciences. "They were breaking the traditional model. They took the time to learn and understand allied health professions to develop a program where the student could get University of Minnesota credit for education on the Mayo campus. It's a triple win for Mayo, UMR and our students."

UMR, one of the few offering a bachelor's degree to allied health students, is the gateway to the BSHP program, which admits juniors. Students must complete all University of Minnesota general- and liberal-education requirements at UMR or another accredited university or college prior to admission. Then, as UMR juniors, they begin specialized education in one of four Mayo School of Health Sciences programs: Echocardiography, Radiography, Respiratory Care or Sonography.

"The BSHP program creates new and innovative opportunities for students in the health professions," says Stephen Lehmkuhle, chancellor of UMR. "It is a delivery model that I expect will be emulated by other institutions over the years."

Roots of collaboration

In 2005, Dr. Bender served as Mayo Clinic's representative on the governor's Rochester Higher Education Development Committee, which recommended establishing "a world-class higher education institution that leverages the University of Minnesota's research capability, in partnership with IBM, Mayo Clinic and other industry leaders, to build signature academic and research programs that complement southeast Minnesota's existing leadership roles in health sciences, biosciences, engineering and technology."

Photo of Mayo School of Health Sciences and University of Minnesota Rochester faculty

Many people contributed to the launch of the BSHP program, including (seated left to right) Holly Renn, Claire E. Bender, M.D., and Stephen Lehmkuhle, and (standing left to right) Jill M. Anderson, R.T.(R), Bethany A. Krom, Joshua A. Finstuen, R.D.C.S., Rebecca A. Madery, R.V.T., R.D.M.S., Troy A. Tynsky and Vanessa L. King, R.R.T.

A year later, UMR was designated a campus of the University of Minnesota system.

"Fast forward to the BSHP program and '2+2' — for allied health — a Bachelor of Science delivered jointly with two years at UMR and two years at Mayo School of Health Sciences," says Dr. Bender. "I've always been a strong advocate for offering the best education to support the allied health professions. It's like a dream come true to see this come to fruition."

The program launched with Respiratory Care and Echocardiography in 2011, then expanded to Sonography and Radiography in 2012.

Along the way, the relationship has fueled a variety of outcomes:

  1. Growth. Enrollment has grown slower than anticipated. But with UMR taking the lead on recruiting and a competitive admissions process, BSHP admissions at Mayo School of Health Sciences have grown from 14 in 2011 to 39 in 2013.

    "We're getting higher numbers of applicants and stronger applicants," says Rebecca A. Madery, R.V.T., R.D.M.S., academic coordinator of the Sonography Program. "I do have to credit UMR for making our program more well-known. We were able to pick from the cream of the crop for the 2013-2014 school year after UMR selected about 50 applicants, more than triple the previous year."

    All four programs continue to enroll students who only want a certificate, usually because the student already has or is working toward a college degree.

  2. Graduates with stronger futures. The move to upgrade four programs to a Bachelor of Science was driven by Mayo Clinic needs for professionals with more education.

    "The clinical departments wanted people to be better prepared than the level of an associate's degree," says Bethany A. Krom, administrator of Mayo School of Health Sciences in Rochester, Minn., and the school's primary contact with UMR.

    Students and faculty say the bachelor's degree is a strong draw. For example, of 437 respiratory care programs in the U.S., only 55 offer a baccalaureate. And until last year, Minnesota had only one baccalaureate radiography program.

    "I'm hoping this will give them an advantage in the job market if competing against someone with an associate's degree or a certificate," says Jill M. Anderson, R.T.(R), director of the Radiography Program. "The BSHP ultimately better prepares students for their profession with better communication and management skills and better understanding of health care as a whole."

    That's true even for the Respiratory Care Program, which previously partnered with the University of Minnesota Twin Cities to offer a Bachelor of Applied Science.

    "The Bachelor of Science is a more respected degree that requires more rigor," says Vanessa L. King, R.R.T., director of the Respiratory Care Program.

    Now King hears that employers are eager to hire respiratory technicians with a bachelor's degree. "The reputations of the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic make our students very attractive to hire," she says. "It's more than just the degree itself. For our students, it's the best package deal on the market."

    With a bachelor's degree, graduates also are stronger candidates for supervisory positions and have the option of applying for graduate education.

    Joshua A. Finstuen, R.D.C.S., director of the Echocardiography Program, welcomes the baccalaureate degree as a deserving reward for students with plenty of schooling. "We've had students in the past who went through the program after prior associate-level education. They could go to school for five or six years and still not get a bachelor's degree."

  3. Students with a strong foundation. BSHP requirements for graduation from UMR include math, science and liberal arts, such as literature and a foreign language. UMR academic advising before admission ensures that Mayo School of Health Sciences gets qualified students. Most BSHP students complete their prerequisites at other colleges and universities.

    "Math and science have prepared these students for radiography," Anderson says. "They have a better understanding and better foundation." Thanks to that math and science base, Mayo School of Health Sciences could shorten the Radiography Program from 24 months to 21.

    Completing two years of college also means students have the ability to handle the academic challenge they'll encounter at Mayo School of Health Sciences.

    "When exposed to the rigor of bachelor-level course work, sometimes the students are better prepared for our program," Madery says. "They are strong with their critical-thinking skills and their ability to manage a big course load."

    For nearly all prospective students, UMR works with Mayo School of Health Sciences to set up a four-hour observation of a health professional on the job to help narrow and confirm their career choice before they apply.

    "We're connecting them with a deeper experience in the profession," says Holly Renn, program director of the Bachelor of Science in Health Professions at UMR. "Our hope is that students will be able to find a good fit at an early stage. Some realize they're better suited to work in a laboratory setting versus direct patient care. More often, students do an observation and say, 'Yes, I can see myself doing that.' "

  4. Innovations to promote learning. Both institutions strive to improve the delivery of education, including the use of technology. While learning from each other, they are pushing in tandem for further evolution of the learning environment, says Krom, who admires UMR's integrated, student-centered model.

    "The BSHP program is a testing ground for applied learning and competency-based education," Krom says.

    Several examples stand out:

    • Writing integrated into the curriculum. UMR and Mayo School of Health Sciences faculty have worked in concert to incorporate scholarly writing and effective communication into Mayo School of Health Sciences courses. And Mayo School of Health Sciences students on the BSHP track can receive help from UMR writing instructors.
    • Joint classes. In 2012, all BSHP students at Mayo School of Health Sciences attended a course on patient care, which covered patient-focused techniques that apply to all four programs. For the first time at Mayo School of Health Sciences, faculty from multiple programs taught students aspiring to multiple professions.

      "We probably wouldn't have designed that class if not for the B.S. degree," King says. Faculty members are looking at other opportunities for joint classes among the four BSHP programs and possibly other Mayo School of Health Sciences programs.

    • Coaching for success. Mayo School of Health Sciences has already started to emulate UMR's use of student success coaches instead of academic advisers. At UMR, success coaches help students take advantage of their strengths, learn additional study skills and strategies, and become aware of their own work styles and how to work with other people with different work styles.

      "We work together to provide the support services that the student needs," says UMR's Renn. "We mentor them and develop a student success plan. With coaching, no one has been dismissed from the BSHP program."

  • Nov 8, 2013
  • ART398929