The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Allied health returns to pre-pandemic operations and introduces new programs
Graphic created by Ashleigh Bennett (Ashleigh Bennett/[email protected])

When the pandemic reached the United States in spring 2020, City College’s science and allied health programs soon scattered as a result of the upheaval. 

Some had to go completely remote, while some continued on-ground classes in a limited capacity. Since students were able to return to City College with some restrictions for the fall semester, the programs have been able to return to complete operations on campus.

And, now, plans are also underway to introduce new offerings within the City College Science and Allied Health Division, including an optician technician program and a health business certificate program.

James Collins, dean of the Science and Allied Health Division, says dental assisting and nursing programs within his division were allowed to continue on-ground classes during the campus shutdown, while the other programs in his division — including occupational therapy, physical therapy, respiratory therapy and nutrition — went remote. 

Most of the lectures transitioned to being held online when the campus shut down in March 2020, which, according to Collins, allowed students to continue registering for the allied health programs. The campus’s community healthcare worker program continued fully online.

Making a Return

Collins has noticed a positive effect of returning to on-campus operations. Some of the changes to infrastructure throughout City College have allowed the allied health programs to run more effectively.

“I think that we did a lot of investing, improving the air quality systems in the dental clinic,” Collins says.

But the pandemic is affecting the number of students being enrolled.

“Nearly all the programs have either eliminated or reduced a cohort,” Collins says. “The programs that were allowed to stay on ground — in particular nursing and now dental hygiene — they all reduced their enrollments by about 25-30%,” depending on the program.

The occupational therapy program shut down spring 2020 and returned to campus summer 2020 with special arrangements. Ada Boone Hoerl, a professor in and coordinator of the occupational therapy program, says they had to come back to campus in summer 2020 with very strict protocol for infection control.

“We had to wear full protective PPE — gloves, gowns, masks — and when the student came to the door, they had to answer a health questionnaire,” Hoerl says. “In spite of those PPE precautions, then we maintain social distancing as much as possible by splitting the group into two rooms whenever possible. It was pretty extreme; it’s what got us back on campus.”

However, the pandemic impacted the number of students enrolled in the occupational therapy program.

“In January of ’21, we were unable to add a cohort of 32. And we have a waitlist system. So those students that were going to come in [January 2021. We] didn’t get them until [January 2022],” Hoerl says. “That doesn’t include the new people we’re going to be adding.” 

According to Hoerl, City College has the only program for occupational therapy assistants in a public institution between Portland, Oregon; Salt Lake City, Utah; Vegas and Fresno. The only other occupational therapy programs in the area are private programs with an expensive approach. 

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Administrators and instructors in the occupational therapy program hope to add more distance learning. The program had already begun to implement this before COVID-19 hit. With this resource, students wouldn’t have to commute from cities as far out as Daly City, Hoerl says. Instead, they have more options to choose from to reduce the stress.

“That’s crazy to drive that far to sit in a room and watch me talk when they can see me on a Zoom,” Hoerl says.

Hoerl says there are many goals, but distance learning is one of the major ones.

As for the physical therapy program, it was closed March 2020. 

“We had to move online to complete some of the courses for the spring but had to cancel courses for the later part of the semester and all summer courses as they could not be done without being face-to-face, including clinical rotations,” David Doron, the coordinator of and assistant professor in the physical therapy program, says in an email. 

Students were able to return to campus with some changes in fall 2020, divided into two small groups for safety, Doron says. 

Overall, it did affect enrollment. 

“We were unable to take a cohort for the 2020-2021 school year,” Doron says. “We returned taking our [normal] size cohort for fall 2021.”

Finding Ways to Grow

The community healthcare worker program is a relatively new program, which began in 2019, that puts effort into recruiting people from different backgrounds to provide home health services for their communities, Collins says.  

“[It’s] providing support at home primarily for people who have or are under medical care — making sure that they take their prescription on time, make sure that it’s the right prescription for them to be taking, addressing any questions they might have about their medical issue, and so on,” Collins says.

Despite all the challenges the pandemic has caused over the past year and a half, the Science and Allied Health Division is also working on launching two new programs: the optician technician and health business certificate program, Collin says.

Collins emphasizes why it’s great for City College to start up these new programs.

“The health delivery system is rapidly evolving,” he says. “By adding new programs in response to these changes, we will continue to provide our students access to these new, in-demand, and high paying careers in this dynamic sector of the economy.”

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