HCC named statewide trainer Cardiovascular technology program offered . .TC

February 14, 1997|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

The heart of cardiovascular training in Maryland lies in Columbia.

Howard Community College was designated this month the statewide trainer for cardiovascular technology by the Maryland Higher Education Commission, a step that means the college is the only one in the state to teach the specialty. The training can lead to a career assisting doctors in making cardiac diagnoses.

The college timed the announcement of the state designation to coincide with Valentine's Day.

"This is nice recognition for the college, but more importantly it benefits students throughout the state," said Emily Slunt, chairwoman of the college's health science division.

Maryland's only other cardiovascular technology training program is at Bethesda Naval Hospital, but it is limited to naval employees.

With the designation, Maryland students who live outside Howard are allowed to pay in-county tuition for the program -- which this semester is $47 below the credit-hour rate of $123 charged out-of-county students. The state reimburses the college for the difference, as it does for biomedical engineering technology -- Howard Community College's other statewide training program, Slunt said.

"The new designation is great. It's going to save me a lot of money," said Anne-Marie Conteh, 23, who lives in Beltsville and enrolled in the program this semester.

A little more than a year old, the cardiovascular program is to graduate its first class of five students later this spring, and a new group of 11 began this semester. The maximum enrollment per class is 15.

'Desperately needed'

"It's been exciting to start the program," said Patti English, the program's director. "We're able to help students learn for a career that's desperately needed.

In the past, the only way Maryland students could train for cardiovascular technology was to enroll in a program in Pennsylvania or Virginia. Or students in jobs related to cardiovascular technology could get hands-on experience and training on their own time -- a route that could take five years or more to become certified, English said.

The college offers students the chance to complete classes and internships in six months to two years, depending upon whether they want to be certified in noninvasive or invasive cardiovascular technology, English said. Some students also need courses in science and the basic treatment of patients before enrolling in the program.

"I looked around and didn't see anything else like this," said Chris Webster, 25, of North Laurel, who is beginning the program. "It fit with exactly what I want to be doing."

In the noninvasive specialty, students earn a cardiac monitoring and analysis certificate, preparing them to do such tasks as stress tests and electrocardiograms.

The invasive track -- which ends with an associate's degree and prepares students for a national certification exam -- requires more hours of training and enables graduates to assist doctors in more complicated cardiac procedures. Students who are registered radiologic technicians can use the training in such therapies as angioplasty.

"Hospitals throughout the area were telling us that they needed more people trained in this area, and they told us they wanted them to have more classroom knowledge, too," Slunt said. "That's a big part of the role of the community college -- to fill a niche for the students."

Many hospitals

Hospitals that have agreed to work with the college and provide internships include Howard County General, Holy Cross, St. Agnes, Washington Adventist, Washington Hospital Center and the medical systems of the University of Maryland and the Johns Hopkins University.

In the classroom, the program mixes lectures with videotapes, computer instruction and hands-on experience in the laboratory. a recent class, students practiced taking each other's pulse and blood pressure -- two basic steps in assessing patients' medical conditions.

For some students, the program has been a long time coming. The college's board of trustees proposed the program in 1994. But the first class didn't start until almost two years later because of the time it took to line up enough hospitals for internships.

"I saw the program in the brochure when I started coming here in fall 1994, and I have been listing it as my major ever since, even when they said they didn't know when it would begin," said Jennifer Karhan, 34, who lives in Columbia's Owen Brown village and has been taking classes part time as her two children have entered elementary school. She hopes to work in a catheter laboratory when she completes her training.

"This is something that's mobile, flexible and offers good pay. What could be better for me now that I've gone back to work?" she said.

Pub Date: 2/14/97

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