ASHEBORO – Perhaps no entity in the county has as much riding on the availability of a hospital here as Randolph Community College.
RCC has made a major commitment to providing healthcare instruction to its residents who want to work in that industry.
In a recent interview, Dr. Bob Shackleford, president of RCC, addressed some of the concerns.
What is the relationship between RCC and Randolph Hospital? Do any of your students “intern” there for any of their studies?
We have had a long-term, very collaborative relationship. When I first came to RCC as president, the nursing program had very low pass rates on the state board exam. One of the first things I did was go to the hospital and sit down with the CEO and the chief nursing officer and talk about plans for improving our nursing program, which we have done. They have helped us numerous times through the years. They allow our students to use the hospital for clinical sites, they hire our graduates, and they’ve always been available for any requests I have. The relationship has been very good to the point that [in 2018] our Distinguished Service Award went to Randolph Health. That is the highest award that the college gives. It is for a person or organization in the community that has had a long-term, very positive impact on RCC.
Every program that we have in healthcare has clinical requirements. In fact, they have to be certified by the state and the state has very strict requirements. It’s the hands-on learning part of healthcare, which is critical. We have to compete for the sites. Besides Asheboro, our students do clinicals in Greensboro, High Point and Sandhills because we only get so many spots at clinical sites and all the universities and community colleges around here are competing for very limited clinical sites. Right now, we have the inside track on clinical sites at Randolph Health. Without it, we would have to become the secondary requesters to hospitals outside of the county. It would be extremely difficult to meet our requirements for clinical sites. It would turn a challenge into a problem.
One of the reasons we’re building the [Dr. Robert S. Shackleford Jr.] Allied Health Center is there are certain kinds of simulations that can count toward clinical hours. We’re doing that to help us, but then we’d be shooting ourselves in the foot if we turn right around and don’t have a hospital that is most likely to give us clinical sites over other colleges.
If the hospital should close or downsize, would that impact the students and their studies?
It will certainly impact the number of jobs that are available for our students as they graduate. We have a number of healthcare programs, besides nursing. We are getting ready to open a major new Allied Health Center and we’ve looked at adding programs. Healthcare occupations were our primary focus in Pathways to Prosperity (in 2016) where the public school systems, RCC and healthcare professionals in the community met and talked for a year about meeting the healthcare needs of Randolph County, which are substantial. As we train people in the health care industry — much of it at the request of the healthcare community — while those opportunities outside of the county are great, and I appreciate them, I have a lot of enthusiasm for training people for careers in Randolph County.
I would hate for all of our healthcare education investment to be going to provide a workforce for counties other than our own.
What is the immediate concern if the hospital should close?
It would affect us in terms of jobs, it would affect us in terms of clinical sites, it would affect our students in jobs at clinical sites, and it would reduce the number of people who serve on our advisory boards here who keep our programs sharp and relevant and up to date. It’s people from the healthcare community who serve every program at RCC, giving advice to the curriculum that you need, the equipment you need, where the industry is headed, and we would lose a lot of that if the hospital left.
Where would the student you are training be able to practice, if the hospital goes away? Is there a concern that this would become a “brain or talent drain” if we are training students who have to go out of county to get a job? How would we counteract that?
The immediate brain and talent drain is going to be — what doctors are going to stay here? You’re going to have an exodus of our current health care professionals that we all lean on and make appointments with who don’t have a hospital to practice in or send patients to. They’re not going to drive all over the Piedmont to go see their patients who have to go to the hospital.
There will be a brain or talent drain first on the professional level and then there’s no question that we would have many students who could have outstanding health care careers in Randolph County who will have to go elsewhere to practice their craft.
Without a hospital, would RCC’s focus have to change away from a strong direction toward healthcare training to something else?
We’re still going to train healthcare workers. The whole state has a shortage in nursing and other fields. A lot of people are still coming out of the high schools and to RCC who want a healthcare career. It would be unfortunate if they had to drive (to another county) to find a great healthcare career, but we’re not going to deprive them of the opportunity. It would just be very unfortunate and shortsighted on the part of our county. We’re going to serve our students even if they end up in their career serving other communities.