With a shortage of doctors and medical workers likely exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, California’s Central San Joaquin Valley needs more health graduates — and from diverse backgrounds, experts say.
But a new report from the nonprofit Campaign for College Opportunity found that community college students, who are more likely to be black and Latino, struggle to transfer to universities to complete their education.
According to the report, of the 59,029 students transferring to community colleges in fall 2020, 3,272 — just 5% — were students majoring in a health field.
A major issue is the confusion around associate degrees for transfer (ADTs) and how they don’t always lead students clearly on the path to graduation, according to The report titled “Critical State: Prescriptions for Improving Transfer Pathways in the Health Professions”.
The University of California and California State University systems have different admission requirements, requiring students to choose a pathway early in their schooling. AB 928, which was adopted in 2021, will streamline these requirements, creating a major change.
The Campaign for College Opportunity noted other ways to improve transfer, including exempting health professions fields from the requirement that ADTs can only include 60 units taken at the community college level. Often, health majors must take lab courses that would exceed this cap.
Increasing the number of ADTs available to health majors is another solution, the report says.
Currently, health transfer degrees are limited to kinesiology and public health sciences. Degrees in general nutrition and dietetics, social services, social work, psychology, and scientific degrees in biology and chemistry might be considered health-related, but nursing, dental, and medical degrees would help with this expansion.
Even before the pandemic, California’s health care system was short of 240,000 nurses, according to the College Futures Foundation. Physician-to-resident ratios have been well below what medical experts say necessary for adequate health care in the Central Valley.
Another 500,000 healthcare workers, including medical and dental assistants and other non-nursing specialists, will be needed in the coming years, California Competes researchers estimate.
Even though most of California’s workforce isn’t white, its healthcare workforce doesn’t reflect that, according to the report.
Forty-six percent of community college undergraduates are Latino, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
The report cites research that shows that “patients with physicians of similar racial/ethnic background report higher levels of communication with their physicians, and black and Latino physicians are more likely to care for populations from ethnically diverse backgrounds. minoritized”.
Medical students in one study who began their studies at a community college were more likely to choose family medicine as their specialty, the report said, “indicating the unique promise of community colleges to diversify the makeup of primary care medicine.” “.
Community colleges should also work with local universities to streamline pathways, the report said. He noted that Fresno City College in particular has “cultivated strong bonds” not only with Fresno State, but also with the Fresno County Public Health Department and community partners.
Community college campus officials acknowledged that the transfer process for healthcare majors “remains unnecessarily complex,” the report read.
“We learned about the unique challenges present on smaller campuses, which often have different infrastructure and reduced capacity to develop new courses and transfer pathways,” the report continues. “Despite a growing number of healthcare ADTs and a wide range of programs to support them, many obstacles are delaying their development at the pace needed to help meet the demand for healthcare professionals in California.
“Strong state and college leadership and systemic change in the community college and CSU systems are needed to address the intractable issues that impede the development of Health ADT.”