The employment picture has been bleak in the last year; the total number of jobs is down in manufacturing, transportation, financial services, and business services, according to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But there is one bright spot in the employment market: healthcare. Healthcare employment has continued to increase, adding 20,000 jobs nationwide in July alone, and the pace shows no signs of slowing.

While many people think of healthcare as just doctors and nurses, there are dozens of health-related careers that do not require a two-year or a four-year degree, according to Sourri Baetjer, assistant dean of allied health at Raritan Valley Community College. These jobs — medical transcriptionist, phlebotomist, and medical biller, for example — are always in demand, she says, and with the aging Baby Boomer population in need of more medical care in the years to come, she does not foresee any reduction in the need for jobs in the allied health area.

RVCC is helping people take advantage of the many employment opportunities in healthcare related fields with more than 95 separate courses in the allied health division of the Corporate and Continuing Education department.

“One of the big advantages to these programs is that a person can be trained and begin to work within a very short period of time, usually just one semester,” says Baetjer. That means that many people can be ready to look for a job in a very short period of time, an issue which is particularly important to people who have been laid off and are in search of employment in a new field.

The newest course in the RVCC program is patient care technician. The one-semester program begins on Saturday, August 29, and will run every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Tuesdays from 5 to 10 p.m. through December 15. Cost: $2,062. For more information or to register for the program call 908- 526-1200.

National or state certification is an important part of the Allied Health program at RVCC, says Baetjer. “Most of our programs do include some type of certification. This makes our graduates even more ready for the job market.”

The college offers a wide variety of programs for people interested in a career in the health industry. A few of the other courses available at the college include personal trainer certification, phlebotomy lab assistant, and courses for physical therapy technicians, as well as a Certified Nurse’s Aide course.

The 158-hour patient care technician course prepares students to sit for certification through the National Center for Competency Testing and includes 90 hours of classroom lecture and lab experience, plus 60 hours of clinical practice. The course is similar in content to the nurse’s aide certification course but also includes additional training in EKG, venipuncture, infection control, CPR certification, and the legal and ethical aspects of the position, Baetjer says. This prepares graduates for a wider variety of work opportunities.

Born in Iran, Baetjer studied and taught practical nursing before coming to the United States through an RN exchange program in 1970, at the age of 25. At the end of that year the hospital she had been working offered her a job — but only if she passed the licensing test. She soon met her husband and settled down in her new home. Because of the political environment in Iran since the early 1970s, Baetjer has not seen her home country since 1973.

Baetjer thinks of herself as a jack of all healthcare trades and has learned the field through broad work in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and businesses. She came to RVCC in 1983 as an assistant professor. She worked as and coordinator of health services for 18 years. In 2001 she was asked to start the Allied Health program as a part of the Corporate and Continuing Education department. “I’m proud to say we now have one of the largest Allied Health Departments in the area,” she says. “As a healthcare professional myself, I know how much we need knowledgeable and skilled professionals in every area.”

Baetjer received her bachelor’s in nursing from St. Joseph College, her master’s in health education from Norwich University, and her Ph.D. in community health from Walden University.

The Patient Care certification offers graduates a variety of opportunities, she says. “With this certification students can work not only in a hospital, but also nursing homes and assisted living facilities, private homes, or doctors’ offices.” Some graduates have also found employment with insurance companies, assisting with pre-insurance physical exams or testing.

While this is only the second semester the program has been offered it has already proved to be very popular. There were 16 people enrolled in the spring program, and 13 have already enrolled for the fall semester, Baetjer says. She is planning on hiring a second faculty member — the teacher-to-student ratio must be 1-to-10 — but she is willing to look for additional staff as needed.

“I’d be happy to have the problem of looking for additional faculty if we registered more than 20 people,” she says.

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