University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

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UW-Eau Claire's Health Care Administration Program
Only Program of its Kind in Country to be Growing


 MAILED:  May 18, 2004

EAU CLAIRE - The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's health care administration program is gaining national attention for its success in bringing quality students to the health and aging services administration field, a field that has had difficulty attracting talented young leaders in recent years.

"I believe we're the only program of our kind in the country that's growing," said Dr. Jennifer Johs-Artisensi, assistant professor of health care administration. "Our enrollment has doubled in the last four years and is continuing to grow. We are considering capping enrollment at 100 students to maintain the program's quality."

UW-Eau Claire's health care administration program is one of a handful of undergraduate programs in the country with an emphasis on health and aging services, Johs-Artisensi said. With the nation's population aging, an increase in senior alternative living options, the influence of chronic care conditions on the health system and the health care industry quickly moving patients from hospitals to rehabilitation-type facilities, graduates of the program are in demand, she said.

"There has been a huge increase in the number of independent living, assisted living and other similar rehabilitation and recuperative facilities," Johs-Artisensi said. "There aren't enough appropriately educated graduates to meet the leadership needs of those facilities."

UW-Eau Claire revamped its program to better prepare its graduates to meet the needs of the health care field today, said Dr. Doug Olson, assistant professor of health care administration.

"There was a disconnect between how universities prepared students for health care administration careers and with how providers operate," Olson said, noting the program began in 1976. "Private organizations challenged universities to think differently. At UW-Eau Claire, we took that challenge seriously."

The result was the creation of the Center for Health and Aging Services Excellence, which brings health care professionals together with health care administration faculty and students in various ways. The CHASE board of advisers consists of health care leaders.

"As a program with two faculty members and few resources, we were limited in what we could do," Olson said. "Thanks to CHASE, we don't have to go it alone. We work trade associations and professionals to give students the tools they'll need to succeed. Many programs are trying to do things differently. They're looking at us as a model for how to do it right."

The key to CHASE's success is that professionals are involved with students and faculty in ways that go beyond financial support, Olson said. For example, CHASE advisers speak in classes, mentor students, provide practicum sites and meet with students to discuss research.

"Our relationship with the advisers is real," Olson said. "These are busy, serious people. They're giving their time to our students and program because they believe in what we're doing. Their involvement is why we're growing when other programs are struggling. Through CHASE, we're serving more students without compromising quality."

During their twice-a-year on-campus meetings, CHASE advisers share information with students and faculty, offer curriculum advice, and identify relevant and timely research topics.

"We picked the cream of the crop," Olson said of CHASE advisers. "They love the interaction with students. They meet bright students who'll be future leaders in their field. Students present research and talk with major players in the field. It works for everyone."

UW-Eau Claire's health care administration program has always been strong, said Craig Ubbelohde, CEO of Lutheran Homes of Oshkosh and 1982 UW-Eau Claire graduate. But the complexities of managing a health care organization have increased dramatically in the last 20 years, creating new challenges for graduates, he said.

"Through CHASE partnerships, we're better preparing future leaders in health care administration," Ubbelohde said. "We expose them to the realities of government funding and regulations, and prepare them for political advocacy for the field and the elders we serve."

Students say opportunities to interact with Ubbelohde and other professionals are valuable learning experiences, better preparing them for the realities of their field.

"I've had hundreds of opportunities to meet with professionals in our field," said Robert Lenio, a senior who knew since high school that he wanted a career in health care administration. "Some classes deal primarily with speaking with professionals and learning from their experiences. That's given me a realistic preview of what my future may be like."

Health care professionals add much to the program, sharing their expertise and experiences with students, and offering tours of their facilities, said Brooke Hanko, a health care administration major who is in her practicum at Meriter Retirement Services in Madison.

The practicum has been a highlight of her college career, Hanko said, explaining that her colleagues include her in learning activities and give her opportunities to practice her leadership skills. "I feel fortunate to have had this opportunity," she said.

Hanko was attracted to health care administration because it brings together her interests in business and health care while allowing her to make a difference in people's lives. She plans to take the federal and state nursing home administrator licensing exam in June, and hopes to find an administrative or management position in a long-term care facility.

Lenio, who began a 12-month practicum at Bethany Lutheran Homes in La Crosse, plans to attend graduate school and may eventually explore work in an acute care setting. "I will be prepared for the challenge," he said, giving credit to the faculty and professionals associated with the program for helping him and other students find their own niche within the health care field.

Recent CHASE accomplishments include:

"There are incredible things happening in our program," Olson said. "I'd say 75 percent of it couldn't have happened without CHASE. We've reinvigorated our program and the results are amazing."

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JB

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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
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Updated: May 18, 2004