EPCOT instructors educate next generation of healthcare workers during shortage

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HOLLYWOOD, Ala. – Hospitals all across Northeast Alabama are short healthcare workers.

It is nothing new according to the World Health Organization, but the COVID-19 pandemic did further impact the shortages.

A Mercer study shows demand will outpace supply by 2025.

But educators at the Earnest Pruett Center of Technology (EPCOT) are hoping to overcome the shortages.

EPCOT health science instructors are hard at work making sure their students are ready for the real world.

“I tell the students all the time that there’s never been a more important time to get into healthcare than right now. There is a massive shortage,” said health science instructor Shainah Hawes, who is in her fourth year of teaching at EPCOT.

“We have more and more students employed when they’re seniors each year and they can go into work-based learning and go into the workplace and get a job,” added 20-year EPCOT health science instructor Deborah Hilley.

Hawes and Hilley teach high schoolers who plan to go into the healthcare field in one way or another.

“Certified Nursing Assistant, Home Health Aide, EKG Technician, and Phlebotomy are our primary certifications,” added Hilley.

“It’s really rewarding to get to know that I’m getting to be a part of a whole future generation of healthcare workers that are going to ultimately be taking care of my generation as well,” Hawes said.

They told News 19 a lot has changed since they were in school including the teaching methods themselves.

Technology is always advancing providing high-tech equipment like a z-Space computer for the students because just by putting on 3-D glasses, it gives the students a whole new perspective.

There are also ultra realistic mannequins for students to practice on, too.

“Those are different things that they have that were not even available when I was in nursing school,” laughed Hilley.

She said while the method may be different, the content is mostly the same.

“Behind all those machines and devices there’s a patient to take care of and they still need a nurse that has a good bedside manner,” she explained.

Hilley and Hawes said seeing their success is rewarding enough, and teacher appreciation at EPCOT seems like a year-long event.

“They have positive attitudes and they express kind words and deeds to us and they’re always so thoughtful throughout the year and just having the respect from students each day, that means more than the students have any idea,” said Hilley.

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