ECC rolls out new healthcare programs

Nat Leon, Staff Writer

If you are interested in a career in healthcare, Elgin Community College recently introduced  two new programs that are starting in the Fall 2022 semester.

The first program is an ophthalmic technician program; an ophthalmic technician helps patients get ready to see an ophthalmologist, an eye doctor. 

The program was initiated when Wheaton Eye Clinic contacted ECC because of a local staff shortage. 

“Ophthalmic practices everywhere have been facing challenges for several years with recruiting staff that are trained in this highly specialized field. There is not enough supply of staff to meet the increasing demands on ophthalmic practices,” said Kati Read, ECC’s consultant for the ophthalmic technician program. 

According to Read, ECC was attentive and responsive throughout the process of communicating with Wheaton Eye Clinic as the addition of the new program was being considered. 

This two-year program will prepare students by teaching them the technical skills needed in the field.

“Students will develop a really strong foundation in all of the skills that we use in day-to-day practice, everything from how to check a patient’s vision and ask them questions about their condition to doing really specialized testing,” said Shelby Stanley, ophthalmic technician program director.

Along with learning technical skills, students will also gain experience through working in ophthalmic clinics. 

The program is designed to prepare students to take the certified ophthalmic technician examination administered by the Joint Commission on Allied Health Personnel in Ophthalmology. This certificate is internationally recognized. 

According to Read, after completing the program and receiving their certification, students will be equipped to enter a job market full of opportunities for them. 

This is truly such a rewarding field that offers a high level of impact for those that are in need of these services, ” Read said. “Students have the opportunity to find purpose in this meaningful work. We literally get to help people see! Sight is an amazingly complex and delicate sense. Vision is extremely important for the quality of life and independence for everyone.”

Stanley says people who are compassionate and interested in finding the most effective way to help solve a patient’s issue should consider a career as an ophthalmic technician.

“Come learn more about eyes.  It isn’t something that I even thought I would find enjoyable and it has become my passion,” Stanley said. “I really think that this is a career that ends up being so much more rewarding than you even think it would be.”  

The second new program is the medical assisting program. A medical assistant is an allied health professional who aids a physician with daily tasks. 

Greater Family Health reached out to ECC due to the shortage of medical assistants. They expressed a need for more local training programs.

Kelli Marlin, medical assisting program director, explains that the technological progression within the medical community increased the need for medical assistants because it takes more people to use the new technology. 

This three-semester, 12-month program will teach students the technical skills utilized within clinics as well as the soft skills necessary to be an effective member of a team. During the final semester, students will do a 160-hour externship in the field to gain experience in a professional environment. 

Marlin is using her experiences as a medical assistant to develop a program that properly prepares students for the work setting. 

“You can teach someone how to give a flu shot to a two-year-old, but in a classroom it is going to go one way and in a clinic it is going to go another,” Marlin said.

Marlin explains that the curriculum is built around the expectations for Medical Assisting programs to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

Students will receive a vocational certificate at the end of the program. They will also be prepared to take a certification exam to be a registered Medical Assistant within the state of Illinois. This certification is not a requirement in Illinois, but it gives students a competitive edge within the field. The test can be taken on campus. 

“This is a very exciting program. Students will learn a lot in a short amount of time. It is a great opportunity to start in August of one year and in the following August hopefully be placed in a job,” Marlin said. 

Marlin says people who are interested in a career in healthcare but don’t have the time or commitment to dedicate to a demanding program should check out the Medical Assisting program. She says that people who maintain an empathetic mindset are likely to succeed in the program.

“Working with patients is very rewarding. I think if you have the right attitude of compassion and you are a caregiver, you get that day-to-day gratification of patients saying thank you,” Marlin said.