Yes. “White coat syndrome” is a real thing. It’s when an otherwise non-hypertensive patient’s blood pressure spikes at the doctor’s office, perhaps as a result of anxiety associated with a clinical setting. The same could be said of first-time students who want to major in a health care field but are overwhelmed by the choices. Not to worry. Piedmont Technical College (PTC) has come up with a treatment for that.

Because many beginning students may have only a general notion of majoring in a health care field but aren’t quite sure exactly what concentration to focus on, PTC last year created its new customized advising center for health care majors — the CARE Planning Center. There, at a visible, centralized location on campus, students can develop and follow their CAREplan.

Students often select health care-related majors based on limited or inaccurate information. Research suggests that developing streamlined pathways with individualized degree plans helps students proceed toward their goals or get back on track if they lose their way.

CAREplan is the brainchild of the college’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) Team. As part of PTC’s reaffirmation process, the QEP Team was formed with the objective of serving these students by providing customized advising on health care and nursing careers as students take their initial steps toward a degree, diploma or certificate in a specific health care-related field.

The Power of Personal Engagement

The team felt strongly that the initiative should have a robust personal engagement component that ensures students fully understand their program of study and keeps them on track so they do not inadvertently delay their progress and prospects for success.

The new program was first introduced with a grand opening in the fall of 2018 on the Greenwood Campus. It provides an environment where pre-program students in limited enrollment health care and nursing majors can actively participate in the advising process to develop relationships, behaviors and skills that lead to student success. Together, the advisor and student develop an individually tailored, guided pathway to graduation. Those who are tentative about their concentration take a health care careers course early on to better understand the field. Then they work continually throughout their time at PTC with their CAREplan advisors to ensure that their education plan and career goals remain compatible.

The employment of faculty and staff as advisors offers the program an “immersion advising” benefit because the advisors already are actively teaching and working firsthand within the departments being considered. These advisors can provide the best, most up-to-date information and guidance for students making critical decisions about their health care career path. They help ensure that students fully understand the demands and requirements of the programs they choose. CAREplan advisors individually monitor their students toward program readiness. If additional assistance is warranted, it is provided through a case management process.

Empowering Success

Ideally, all health care and nursing students will have a concrete Guided Pathway plan in place before the end of their first semester. One of the QEP team’s important goals was to facilitate students in making any changes in their major earlier, before they were well into their first year of study. They can stay on the same generalized health care path, taking courses common to all health majors for as long as they can, until they need to step off into more specialized coursework.

The CAREplan enables students to bypass unnecessary setbacks and delays on the path to their degrees. Such benefits are not limited to the Greenwood Campus. The college has plans to expand the program to offer specialized advising at other campuses.