Investing in Healthcare: How Pontotoc Technology Center’s Expansion Will Shape Future Workforce

By: Sunnie Dawn Baker

Pontotoc Technology Center (PTC) provides tremendous benefits to the community and developing workforce. Now, though, Congressman Tom Cole and the leadership of PTC Superintendent, Travis Graham, are enabling this facility to grow by expanding existing programs and offering new ones as well. Specifically, Cole secured funding for PTC to expand their nursing program.

It is no secret that there is a nursing shortage in the United States and, specifically, in Oklahoma. According to a story on KFOR from January 4, 2024, Oklahoma ranks 46th in the nation for RNs per capita. The US Chamber of Commerce notes that nursing shortages contribute significantly to hospital closures, and they project an average of 193,100 RN job openings per year until 2032, with only an additional 177,400 nurses expected to enter the workforce throughout the entire decade of 2022-2032. This isn’t just a problem; it is a crisis. And this is one reason why, when Graham was approached by Cole’s office about plans for future growth, he jumped at the chance to propose an expansion of their healthcare programs.

Cole secured $4.5 million for this new project at PTC as a part of the Fiscal Year 2024 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. Graham states, “The funding will be used to construct and improve a healthcare facility for current and future health specific programs. By extending our current educational space, Pontotoc Technology Center will be able to extend the current and future capacities of our existing programs, which will create new industry pathways to a diverse workforce. The increase in high quality industry specific training will make an economic impact in the communities we serve.”

PTC will be able to build a new healthcare wing that will benefit both long-term and short-term programs. Currently, space for these two types of programs are located in different sections of the facility. This expansion will allow all of the health sciences to be housed together. Additionally, PTC will renovate the current nursing wing to allow cosmetology students to expand their space to better fit today’s workforce. Adding more space just creates more opportunities for all the different disciplines.

One remarkable aspect of the health sciences programs at PTC is how they utilize technology. They utilize patient simulators in the nursing program that get as close to the real-world experience as possible before the students are sent out to work with real people. They design the labs to resemble actual patient rooms, emergency rooms, delivery rooms, etc., ensuring that students feel comfortable and secure in these environments. They also ensure that the students are working with the same equipment that they would be in the workforce. By consulting their advisory board, they ensure that everything meets industry standards, enabling students to transition smoothly into their new careers upon graduation. Their successful efforts result in most students having job offers lined up before completing their studies, as noted by Graham when asked about the job placement rate.

PTC already offers many programs and possibilities for their students. In high school, students in the health sciences program can focus on Health Science Therapeutic Careers or Health Care Technician. Among many different certifications and job opportunities, a student could graduate from high school with their CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) or Registered Phlebotomist certificate. High school students can also study Biotechnology or EMT/Basic Firefighter Training. Once they graduate high school, they can continue to the Paramedic program. The Practical Nursing program is for adults who wish to become an LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) and is a perfect next step from the high school health sciences pathway. Short term programs for adults include Phlebotomy, Medication Administration Technician, Dental Assisting, CPR, CNA, and Dementia Training among many more. This crucial expansion, though, will allow more programs to be added including Surgical Technologist, otherwise known as operating room technicians, and wound care. They will also add a trauma/air evacuation pad that will enable nurses and the PTC Firefighter Academy to receive the training they need to be most efficient in those difficult and critical situations. Graham says, “This funding allows us to design, build, and service our current offerings, but it also enables us to expand the possibilities into fields like Radiological Technologist or MRI Technologist. We aim for stackables, where former students can continue returning to us to receive more training and certifications and become upskilled. We aim to provide economic advantage and economic opportunities.”

Pontotoc Technology Center plays a crucial role in workforce growth and development in our community. They provide necessary skills to teenagers and adults alike and allow opportunities for them to further develop their skills as the world around them changes. Congressman Cole says, “The Pontotoc Technology Center is such an essential part of our community, as they help to provide a trained workforce in Oklahoma for so many different critical professions including nurses, electricians, firefighters, paramedics, welders, EMTs, and much more.” This expansion will only enhance the impact that they can make in Ada and the surrounding areas, equipping much-needed nurses and healthcare professionals with the skills they need to succeed and help our community.

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