A Few Degrees North

TCC teams up with Tulsa Tech to offer new study options for Owasso area residents

If you’re headed to Tulsa Community College this fall, you might be headed in a new direction… and we’re not just talking geographically… we’re talking occupationally, too. TCC is making it much more convenient for folks living in the Owasso area to take college courses by offering classes and new degree programs in the recently constructed Tulsa Tech Owasso Campus, located off of Highway 169 and 106th Street, North.

“The Owasso campus was conceptualized to meet the population growth and the demand from the community of Owasso and the surrounding areas including Collinsville, Skiatook, Claremore, OologahCatoosa and Bartlesville,” said Dr. Paula Willyard, dean of the Owasso Campus. “Tulsa Community College has held classes for adult learners at the Owasso High School in the evenings for many years. Our partnership with Tulsa Tech allows us to continue to expand our academic offerings, address continued growth in health-related fields and expand access to higher education.”

The TCC Owasso Community Campus provides higher education access that is convenient and comparable to courses and services at traditional TCC campuses. Students will have access to computer labs and placement testing as well as academic career advisement.

The sharing of the new facility benefits students and makes good use of taxpayers’ money. Future plans include providing increased college access using technology, a wider variety of classes; and expansion of existing programs. In the fall of 2014, TCC will begin offering courses for a degree in cardiovascular technology on the Owasso campus.

“We will continue to provide accessible, affordable educational opportunities, and we look forward to continued growth,” said Willyard. 

Diagnostic Medical Sonography

This fall will mark the inaugural class of Diagnostic Medical Sonography at TCC. Diagnostic Medical Sonography is a new program that will only be offered in Owasso. Ten years in the making, TCC research showed that local employers were in need of qualified sonographers.

The field of diagnostic ultrasound, or medical sonography, utilizes high frequency sound waves to image and evaluate organs and soft tissue structures of the body. The diagnostic medical sonographer is a skilled person qualified by academic and clinical education to perform sonographic examinations under the supervision of a qualified physician. The sonographer performs a variety of diagnostic examinations to include evaluations of the brain, abdomen, peripheral blood vessels, and studies of the pregnant and nonpregnant female patient. The sonographer has a unique and vital role in the diagnostic process.

Aimee François is the director of the new program and has worked in the profession for more than 25 years. She is enthusiastic about the opportunities diagnostic medical sonography offers as a career.

“What I love most about it is the flexibility and the growth it offers. There are full-time, part-time, on call and per diem positions available in a variety of different facilities: out patient, physician’s offices and hospitals,” said François. “Uultrasound/sonography also allows me to grow as a sonographer. I can learn new specialties like cardiac, vascular and musculoskeletal. This has allowed me to change, evolve and grow in my profession. It has never been boring for me.

“Sonography is one of the few imaging professions where the technologist is encouraged to go beyond the established protocol. We are expected to use our critical thinking skills in aiding the sonologist in a diagnosis,” François continued.

The Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program will accept 12 students each fall. Classes will be offered Monday through Friday. In addition to the sonography courses, students will take classes in acoustical physics and instrumentation, medical communications and terminology, conflict resolution, psychology history and clinical practice. All classes will be taught by Francois, or Cindy Rich, the program’s clinical coordinator.

To qualify for the program, students must have a college GPA of 2.5 or better; an 18 or better ACT score; eight hours of clinical observation; and submit to a group interview.

Francois is enthusiastic about the new program and the new campus

“The TCC community campus in Owasso is a beautiful, brand new facility. Our lab has two new ultrasoundmachines, which I chose specifically with student sonographers in mind. I am so very excited about the ultrasound/sonography simulator TCC has purchased for our lab. It will allow students to learn hands-on scan skills for situations that they may not come across in their clinical rotations. The lab is equipped with many other scan models and learning tools that are unique for an ultrasound school,” said Francois.

LPN/Paramedic to RN Program

The Owasso Community Campus will be home to another allied health degree program this fall -- the Licensed Practical Nurse/Paramedic to Registered Nurse Program,a program designed to take an LPN or paramedic through to an RN in a few semesters.

Jim Hicks, assistant professor of nursing and program coordinator for the Owasso site, explained that this is the same program that has been offered on the TCC Metro Campus for several years. The need to expand the program was great.

“This program is important to the citizens of Tulsa because we have a shortage of Registered Nurses in the Tulsa area. In Oklahoma, the average age of an RN is 50. This means that in the next 15 years, half of all working RNs will be retiring and will need to be replaced,” said Hicks.

Expanding the program to Owasso is important to TCC students as well.

TCC is trying to fill the needs of our students. We have the same program at Metro Campus and have had it for the past several years,” said Hicks. “The Metro class meets on Saturday with the online work performed during the week. Many students are working weekends and could not come to the Saturday classes, and several were asking for classes during the week. Therefore, we are offering students weekday classes on the Owasso Campus.” 

Renee Harrison, TCC nursing outreach coordinator offers further explanation, “All the students in this program are already providing health care in multiple communities in the Tulsa and surrounding areas. They want to increase their knowledge and ability to serve the health care needs of Oklahomans. They (students) are able to continue to work, provide for their families and attend this program.”

This fall, TCC will admit 55 students between the two campuses, with 17 students in Owasso classes. The program is three semesters of intense study. Designed for health care professionals who desire to advance their career, the program is only for students who are looking to increase their knowledge to better care for their patients.

“Students must be self motivated and willing to study long hours in order to complete this program,” said Hicks. “Since these students are licensed health care professionals, many of them are working a full-time job. Class time at Owasso will be limited to fit around the students’ work schedule. Students are required to perform a lot of online study on their own time outside of the classroom.”

First-semester students will be in the classroom on Thursdays. The curriculum is structured so that for the first eight weeks, students take a class called the Bridge. The Bridge helps students bridge the gap between LPN/Paramedic to RN classes with hospital clinicals. The second eight weeks, students study RN mental health nursing with clinicals at mental health hospitals. The second semester consists of students taking RN pediatrics and RN-level OB classes with hospital clinicals. During the third semester, students learn advanced medical and surgery nursing, and transition to professional nursing classes with hospital clinicals.

“The curriculum is based on the TCC Nursing Program curriculum, which is nationally accredited and has Oklahoma Board of Nursing approval,” explained Harrison. “The students earn credit for their LPN or registered paramedic standing.”

To be eligible to participate in the LPN/Paramedic to RN Program, students must have passed the LPN or paramedic boards and completed all college-level classes required for admission to the RN Program.

If this sounds hard, it is because it is hard. To help students be successful in the program, there are seven nursing faculty members that specifically teach this program.

“To be successful the student needs to be willing to learn and to work at it. It is a change of mind set and scope of practice for LPNs and paramedics,” said Harrison. “The student must take responsibility to prepare for classes, do preparations outside the classroom and be an adult learner.” 

The hard work is worth it. Once they have successfully completed their board exams, students are employable anywhere an RN would work such as hospitals, doctor’s offices, home health care providers, schools and community health organizations. Registered nurses are able to work in leadership positions and are paid much better than LPNs or paramedics.