Inova Health System announced on Thursday that it would partner with Shenandoah University to offer three graduate programs at the school’s Northern Virginia campus, a move that the health-care provider hopes will strengthen its talent pipeline at a time when there is growing demand for skilled workers in the health industry.
Inova will put up $3.2 million to launch the program, which includes tracks for studying to be an occupational therapist, physical therapist, or physician assistant.
Knox Singleton, Inova’s chief executive, said the goal of the program is to ensure that when the health system needs to hire skilled medical workers, “they are well-trained and in adequate supply.”
The partnership will allow Shenandoah University—a private university with over 4,000 students—to expand these programs beyond its main campus in Winchester. The school says this change will allow it to reach a different population of students.
“What we’re looking at is potentially students that are non-traditional, that are already working professionals,” said Karen Abraham, Shenandoah’s director of physical therapy.
Participants in the new program will be eligible to get their clinical and rotational experience through Inova, a component of the partnership that Abraham said is especially valuable for her students.
“One of the crises in health professionals’ education is just finding enough spots for our students to get educated to get real world experience,” Abraham said.
And if they excel in their rotations, Abraham said, “That will hopefully transition to job placement for our students.”
The new partnership will allow Shenandoah to serve nearly 50 percent more students than it currently serves in its programs for occupational therapy, physical therapy, and physician assistant studies.
Tracy Fitzsimmons, president of Shenandoah University, said the decision to focus on these three programs came out of a study that was conducted jointly by the school, Inova and Valley Health. They determined that there wouldn’t be enough professionals in these fields in Virginia to meet demand, and that prompted Inova and Shenandoah to consider the expansion.
Singleton said that he hopes this investment will help the local labor market by training people for skilled positions and offering them springboard for employment at Inova.
“You can almost say this is an economic development or jobs program as much as it’s a health-care promotion program,” Singleton said.