New careers as a health professional

Healthwise: Dr. Lori Rice-Spearman, Dean of Texas Tech School of Health Professionals

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - With an increasing concern about mental health in this country, the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center is stepping up with a program that aims to provide more mental health and addiction counselors to people who need those services, particularly in rural areas like West Texas.

Dr. Lori Rice-Spearman, Dean of the School of Health Professionals, says TTUHSC serves 108 counties. And since it’s not easy for a lot of people in outlying areas to get to a big city for a mental health issue, the School of Health Professionals is providing a solution. It’s training mental health counselors online through a program called Telecounseling.

Dr. Rice-Spearman explains, “So these programs, a Master’s Degree in Mental Health, a Master’s Degree in Addiction Counseling, a Master’s Degree in Clinical Rehabilitation Counseling are all done online so we’re meeting the learner where they are and then, they in turn can provide counseling via Telecounseling certificate which is part of their curriculum. We’re the first program in the nation that requires all of our graduates to have a certificate in Telecounseling.”

Dr. Rice-Spearman says another growing field of study is the Physician Assistant, a position that can make from $85,000 to upwards of $200,000 among those who have been in the profession for many years.

She says the career of Physician Assistant was created in the 1960s to provide better access to health care and better quality of health care, especially in rural counties. She says the degree is a program located in Midland which takes about 27 months to complete.

She adds, “In that 27 months, they do clinical internships much like physicians do. Theirs is much shorter, much abbreviated. They can prescribe medications. They can order tests… They just help fulfill a different role.”

Dr. Rice-Spearman says while physicians are very busy with highly specialized care, the Physician assistant has more time with the patient, especially when it comes to routine care, particularly in Family Medicine, Pediatrics, or General Surgery.

But as Dean of the School of Health Professionals, she adds this field is also exploding with interest, “Our P. A. program accepts 60 students a year right now. Currently, we are in our application cycle and we had over 1600 applications for those 60 positions. So its highly competitive.”

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