Dallas, Texas — Early in her life, Lisa LaBruce dreamed of becoming a nurse.
But the fear of needles made her disgusted and sent her to non-clinical jobs as an administrative assistant, executive secretary and financial analyst. It always nagged at her, however, that she wasn’t working in a medical field where she could help improve the health outcomes of others.
Now, with the help of Dallas College, his desire to serve patients is finally being realized – albeit virtually.
LaBruce is in the final stage of the newly launched virtual care program at Dallas College. Armed with a Patient Care Technician certification and a Google IT Support Professional certificate, LaBruce is now on the third step of her journey; She is enrolled in an externship at UT Southwestern, a partner in Dallas College’s Virtual Care program.
“It’s like I hit the reset button,” LaBruce said. “I feel, to be honest, in good faith. I am now certified as a patient care technician. I am Google certified. What I do with it is up to me. I have options. I can put that on my resume. I can enter.
His new career takes off. The training, she said, left her feeling confident and inspired.
” It’s quick. There’s so much information out there, but if you learn it, if you hang in there, you’ll be successful,” Cedar Hill’s LaBruce said. She cares deeply about her patients and their health – albeit virtually.
The pandemic has challenged traditional care and nursing programs have been forced to pivot, said Alisa Jones, senior director of workforce development at Dallas College.
“The pandemic has changed everything, including how we interact with our doctors, medical support staff and nurses,” Jones said. “You know when you go to the emergency room and the first person you see before you see the doctor is a patient care technician. They make an assessment of the issues and why you are there. A patient care technician can effectively check vital (signs). »
The virtual care program is taught in a hybrid format to help technicians adapt to an environment that puts them behind the computer and behind the camera to interact with their patients.
Students learn to count their breath, assess, interview, and schedule medical visits. They also discuss the symptoms of common and complex medical conditions in what is quickly becoming a preferred way of providing patient care.
As the pandemic continues, virtual care – videoconferencing between patient and medical staff – has become a preferred way to assess medical illnesses, in some cases. At Dallas College, Virtual Care is part of the school’s continuing education programs, Jones said. This program allows students to train for a career in virtual care in less than a year, she said.
Virtual Care, with its flexible schedule, is here to stay
Kendall Beerwinkle said she likes the program because it can provide patients with a level of care online comparable to what they would receive in face-to-face appointments.
“It’s important to be mindful and considerate,” Beerwinkle said. “Some patients are nervous about this, so you have to put them at ease and always display a professional demeanor.”
Beerwinkle entered the program after her dog-sitting/home-sitting business dried up with the onset of the pandemic. She had a healthy business with four employees.
“I really wanted to work from home and I wanted to work with patients,” said Beerwinkle, who also has ophthalmic assistant and medical receptionist certificates.
“That’s something that really interested me because we can really look at body language and tell if a patient is in pain or has other symptoms that you pay attention to. Are they coughing a lot or blowing their nose a lot, or do they need an ambulance This program teaches you how to assess a patient and determine what they really need.
Getting a Google IT certificate was a plus, Beerwinkle said.
The demand for virtual care is skyrocketing. About 26% of jobs require technology, and health insurance plans now cover virtual visits, according to Dallas College Labor Market Statistics.
Remote healthcare is becoming the norm, Jones said. At Dallas College, students are trained to recognize illnesses during real patient communications via Zoom, Google or other platforms, Jones said.
Dallas College and UT Southwestern worked together to create and support the joint virtual care program, said Beth Stall, director of academic services at Dallas College.
Students who enroll in this program are also eligible to take the state ECG exam, which means that they can essentially complete this program and walk away with multiple certificates. They also gain valuable experience solving real-world virtual care problems in a clinical setting through UT Southwestern.
Patient care technician is an industry credential recognized by hospitals and physicians, she said.
“The pandemic has forced everyone to master the virtual world and that includes healthcare,” Stall said. “Typically, hospitals and doctors hire entry-level physician assistants or what we call patient care technicians to triage and get to know patients and prepare them to see the doctor. But in a virtual environment, they still need those skills, but they also need them to be computer literate. »
Another benefit for patients is that they can avoid in-person waiting rooms for certain medical conditions.
Destiny Jones, a full-time pharmacy technician, wanted to supplement her income and advance her skills. She was looking for virtual care courses when she came across the program at Dallas College.
” I’m a sociable person. I like interacting with others. I work full time, so this program was convenient and I was able to learn it in six months. You never know when you’ll need another career,” said Jones, who is a solicitor, has a certificate in office assistance and is a certified compound sterile compounding technician, which means she can compound medication. in a sterile environment to avoid contamination. .
Dallas College launched a new cohort of virtual care courses this week. The median salary for those entering this profession is $38,500. For more information on enrolling in the Dallas College Virtual Care Program, please call 214-860-8625 or visit Virtual Care.
About Dallas College
Dallas College, formerly Dallas County Community College District, was founded in 1965 and consists of seven campuses: Brookhaven, Cedar Valley, Eastfield, El Centro, Mountain View, North Lake and Richland. Dallas College offers online learning and serves more than 125,000 students in credit and continuing education during the fall and spring semesters. Dallas College also offers dual credit to students at partner high schools and Dallas County Premier High Schools. Students benefit from partnerships with local business leaders, school districts, and four-year universities, and Dallas College offers associate’s degree and vocational/technical certificate programs in more than 100 fields of study, as well as a Bachelor of Education. Based on annual enrollment, it is the largest community college in Texas.