ACCS plays major role in taking care of Alabama’s nursing needs

The Alabama Community College System is delivering a steady supply of trained workers for the state’s most in-demand occupation -- registered nurse.  The System’s colleges also are preparing students for careers in other fast-growing health care occupations.

According to the Alabama Department of Labor, registered nurse is the state’s No 1 high-demand occupation with nearly 2,000 job openings projected annually through 2020.  ACCS colleges currently have over 5,700 students enrolled in the System’s 20 separate college registered nursing programs.

“We are Alabama’s workforce delivery system for nurses.  More than 75 percent of the practical and registered nurses in Alabama are a product of the Alabama Community College System,” Chancellor Mark Heinrich said.  “When you visit your doctor or health care agency, you will likely receive care from a nurse who received their degree from one of our community colleges.”

Other health care occupations are also in high demand in Alabama, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.  Some of these include medical assistants and health information technologists, which together should see more than 1,100 openings annually through 2020.  ACCS colleges currently have more than 2,000 students majoring in these programs alone.

The ACCS offers some 31 different allied health programs in occupations such as diagnostic imaging, radiology, emergency medical services, and physical and occupation therapy assistants.

“Health care needs in our state are increasing at an incredible rate, due in large part to an aging population,” Heinrich said.  “As a result, there is an extremely high demand for all health professions in the marketplace, and our programs are helping to meet this demand.”

Upon completing an associate’s degree, ACCS nursing graduates are prepared to work as nurses in a variety of settings from physician offices to acute care hospitals.  Many ACCS nursing graduates take advantage of articulation agreements that lead to a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing from a four-year Alabama university.

Eunice Farmer, a native of Ghana and a graduate of the nursing program at Wallace Community College in Dothan, is among those who continued her education.   She received a bachelor’s degree in nursing through a partnership with the University of Alabama and now plans to pursue a master’s. Her goal is to assist a woman’s health program in her African homeland. (Read a story about her.)

Average annual earnings for nurses in the U.S. top $65,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The System also is a major provider of LPNs, with 18 practical nursing programs.

Job opportunities for LPNs are expected to grow in Alabama because the long-term care needs of an increasing elderly population and the general growth of health care.