Orange Coast College allowed a limited number of students to return to campus to complete coursework in some Allied Health programs that are considered essential and critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students in their last semester of study in OCC's Respiratory Therapy, Radiologic Technology, Emergency Medical Tech, Medical Assisting and Cardiovascular Tech programs were given the option to return to campus to complete necessary in-person coursework with strict safety guidelines to limit the spread of illness, such as temperature taking, distancing, and the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
"In total we have about 120 students across five different Allied Health programs who have been able to complete coursework to graduate, and about another 100 who were able to maintain or complete licensure requirements by documented skill from clinical training and with a virtual or remote format," says Vice President of Instruction Kevin Ballinger. "All of these individuals are needed in the community right now. There are only two radiologic technology programs in Orange County, and Orange Coast College has the only local respiratory therapy and cardiovascular tech programs. EMT's are also very much needed right now."
Students who were allowed to return to campus were required to abide by strict distancing guidelines and wear full PPE. Students also had their temperature taken before entering classrooms, and classrooms were disinfected daily. Working with the Coast Community College District Risk Services department, the College consulted with both the Orange County Department of Health and the Orange County Department of Education before making the decision to allow a limited number of students to return to campus.
"Our graduates are front-line providers of diagnostic information," says Radiologic Technology Program Coordinator Loren Sachs. "While Radiologic Technologists are not part of the therapeutic process, we are integral to determining the severity of the disease and to providing evidence of patient improvement. When you look at the typical in-patient hospital setting, it's not uncommon for patients with respiratory issues to get daily chest x-rays to monitor their clinical process."
As the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, OCC's Allied Health programs have shifted gears quickly in order to put as many graduates into the workforce as possible. Initially, without knowing how quickly the virus would spread, faculty hoped for the best, but prepared for the worst.
"In California, we have been lucky that our hospitals did not get overwhelmed," says Rad Tech professor Kelly Holt. "Our initial thinking was that the students who returned might have been a second line of hospital workers if the Radiographers in the field got sick. So far, all has been fine from what I have heard from our clinical affiliate hospitals."
However, with no vaccine and a second spike of infections possible in the fall, the College is committed to doing its part to continue to train and prepare frontline healthcare providers.
"Unfortunately, it's taken a pandemic to shine a bright spotlight on the specialty of Respiratory Care and highlight the unique skill set respiratory therapists possess that make us essential to patient care," says Respiratory Care program Director Alison Riggio. "We are an invaluable part of the healthcare team and OCC can be proud that we are graduating competent individuals prepared and excited to begin professional practice and provide critical service to the community."
The School of Allied Health at OCC offers a robust and comprehensive curriculum in medical and dental professions that provide necessary knowledge and skills for careers in professional healthcare. Critical thinking, assessment, creativity, and professionalism are emphasized across the school's 12 health programs, most of which are accredited by specialized accrediting bodies recognized by the United States Department of Education.
OCC's physical campus closed on March 16 and remains open to the public in a remote format. The College has announced that its summer session will take place mostly online, with the possibility of some in-person lab classes scheduled for later in the summer, depending on guidance from the state.