Misericordia University is introducing a Bachelor of Health Science with a Specialization in Patient Navigationr degree and a certificate program in patient navigator beginning with the fall semester to help improve patient outcomes in the nation's health care industry.
Professionals in the emergent field in patient advocacy, health education, wellness and community health collaborate with patients and clinicians to improve health outcomes. They steer patients successfully through the complex health care system and any subsequent treatment plans, while also possessing the skills necessary to safely and effectively follow patients across the care continuum.
Overall, the undergraduate degree for traditional students and the 18-credit certificate program for adult learners will prepare professionals to be effective communicators for patients and practitioners. They will understand the barriers to effective care, such as poverty, and communication and information barriers; maintain an understanding of current health care trends and issues, and be able to guide patients, caregivers and family members through the prescribed course of treatment.
Patient navigation graduates also guide patients with common chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and dementia; recognize patients in crisis; identify chronic diseases and the differing effects they have on groups and populations, and much more.
"Misericordia University established the program in order to meet the need for patient navigation professionals throughout the health care industry,'' said Leamor Kahanov, Ed.D., dean of the College of Health Sciences. "These professionals work hand-in-glove with patients, clinicians and administrators to ensure efficient and effective care is delivered. We are proud to be able to offer a novel program that fills an important niche in our nation's health care system.''
Misericordia University's new academic program features three specialization areas: occupational therapy (OT), speech-language pathology (SLP) and patient navigation. Patient navigation is a four-year degree resulting in a Bachelor of Health Science. Students in the OT and SLP specialization tracks available in the five-year, entry-level master's degree programs will receive their Bachelor in Health Science Specialization in OT or SLP degrees at the conclusion of their fourth year of study. The two specializations also integrate diverse research designs into the curricula.
The 18-credit certificate program offers online delivery with fieldwork coursework. The certificate is geared toward working professionals in health care that are looking for career mobility, or for adults who want to enter the health care field. Prospective students also must meet established prerequisites to gain admission into the program.
Both the full-time and part-time tracts also feature fieldwork experiences. Students observe, interact with patients and other health care professionals, participate in the effective progression of patients throughout the care process, and learn about effective patient-practitioner communications and the self-management of patient care.
The demand for the new program is strong, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) considers the field of patient navigation a "bright outlook'' occupation because "it is projected to have a large number of job openings and is a new and emerging occupation,'' according to the Occupational Information Network. Overall, BLS states employment in the field will grow at above average rates through 2022 at between 19 and 27 percent, which is well above the national aggregate growth rate of 10.8 percent.
In Pennsylvania, the state Department of Labor & Industry predicts an average of more than 1,300 job openings annually in patient navigation and related fields, according to Hanover Research.
Offered in the College of Health Sciences, the field is forecasted to grow significantly in the coming years due to several market factors, including a growing population with chronic medical conditions, the fragmented U.S. health care system, and provisions in the Affordable Care Act that tie funding to patient outcomes. Additional requirements will specifically increase the need for patient navigators with knowledge of health insurance, cancer and other chronic conditions.For more information about the Bachelor of Health Science with a Specialization in Patient Navigator degree program at Misericordia University, please call (570) 674-6400 or log on to www.misericordia.edu/patientnavigator