Western gets UNC system OK for degree in health systems administration

CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University will offer a new bachelor’s degree program in health systems administration beginning spring 2006 to help meet a growing demand for the skilled professionals needed to manage the increasingly complex health care delivery systems of the 21st century.

Establishment of the program, to be housed in the health sciences department of Western’s College of Applied Sciences, was approved during the January meeting of The University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

The program will be offered through a distance education format designed to respond to the needs of practicing professionals holding certificates or licenses from accredited health care education programs.

“Over the past few years, we received numerous requests from individuals, area health care facilities and organizations to provide a four-year degree program in health care administration, and to do so via distance learning to better serve the needs of the students,” said Noelle Kehrberg, dean of the College of Applied Sciences.

“The program is part of the university’s mission to extend its educational reach to meet the needs of place-bound adult learners,” Kehrberg said. “It will help those working health care practitioners with associate degrees get the additional education they need to advance into leadership and managerial roles.”

The U.S. Department of Labor has projected as much as a 35 percent increase in demand for health systems administrators by the year 2010, said Christine Stevens, head of the department of health sciences.

“The structure and financing of health care is changing rapidly, with an increasingly complex regulatory environment and restructuring of work environments,” Stevens said. “Our new program will prepare future health systems administrators to deal with evolving integrated health care delivery systems and technological innovations, and will prepare them to improve efficiency in health care facilities and in the quality of care provided.”

The additional program is part of Western’s on-going efforts to provide high-quality health care education to help meet the needs of Western North Carolina through undergraduate degree programs in nursing, clinical laboratory sciences, health information administration, emergency medical care, environmental health, nutrition and dietetics, athletics training, communication sciences disorders and therapeutic recreation, and master’s level programs in nursing, physical therapy and health sciences.

For information on the new degree program in health systems administration, contact the department of health sciences, (828) 227-7113.