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Providing the Staff to Keep Health Care Humming

Health care can be only as good as the knowledge and skills of the people delivering it. The Hattiesburg area’s health care suppliers have a solid base of local educational institutions to draw upon as they recruit nurses, therapists, pharmacists, technicians and even physicians.

An estimated 9,000 of the Hattiesburg region’s 150,000 people make their living keeping other people alive and well. Many of those learned their profession—and keep up to date on it—through the University of Southern Mississippi, William Carey University and Pearl River Community College.

Many local young people (and older ones changing careers) begin their training at Pearl River Community College. PRCC offers an associate degree nursing/registered nurse path and a licensed professional nurse program. About 220 students are enrolled in the nursing studies at any given time.

PRCC also offers training in dental hygiene, physical therapist assistant, occupational therapy assistant, medical radiologic, respiratory care, medical laboratory, surgical technology and dental assisting. Most programs can be completed in 2 to 2.5 years.

The ADN program conducts clinical studies in Forrest Health facilities. Students participate in an advance care tech program, where stipends are given with agreement to commit to a certain number of years employment following graduation.

The College of Nursing and Health Professions at The University of Southern Mississippi has more than 500 students pursuing a wide variety of training programs that end with bachelor’s, master’s and even doctoral degrees. They prepare students for professions in nursing, psychiatric nursing, nurse anesthesia, public health, athletic training, kinesiotherapy, therapeutic recreation, speech pathology and audiology, speech and hearing sciences and audiology.

USM’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program alone has 376 students. 

As is true nationwide, “There is a shortage of nurses in our area,” Dean Kathleen Masters said. “Our nursing students have close to 100 percent job placement upon graduation. The BSN-prepared registered nurse can expect to make a mean salary of $65,000 in the practice setting while a master’s-prepared family nurse practitioner will make $90,000 to $100,000 on average in Mississippi.”

USM has approximately 400 affiliation agreements with health care institutions that allow its students to engage in clinical training. On campus, students enjoy a state-of-the-art simulation center with an operating room, a critical care room, a labor and delivery room, exam rooms, as well as a SynDaver and high-fidelity mannequins.

The area’s newest health training program is the School of Pharmacy at William Carey University. Dean Michael Malloy said the school began offering classes in July 2018 with 57 students, about 93 percent of whom come from Mississippi.

The William Carey program moves faster than most pharmacy schools. Graduates will emerge with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree after two years and 10 months of study.

Malloy expects most graduates to find jobs in community pharmacies. “I am told by retailers and hospitals in Mississippi that there are jobs for our graduates, especially in our area and the South Coast from Louisiana to west Florida, with a typical starting salary of around $95,000,” he said.

The Pharmacy School joins the William Carey College of Osteopathic Medicine and William Carey University’s Physical Therapy Department.

With a primary aim to train physicians for careers in primary care medicine, the College of Orthopedic Medicine curriculum is based upon core competencies in medical education as identified by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.

In 2009, the college also began a Master of Biomedical Science program, which helps students become stronger applicants to professional schools in osteopathic and allopathic medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and other health-related sciences.

The MBS tracks include pre-medical/dental, pre-pharmacy and general pre-health professional.

In William Carey’s Physical Therapy Department, many faculty are American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties-certified in their respective practice areas, and most continue to provide patient care on a regular basis.