After counting out the last in a series of chest compressions, Harry Painter Jr. sets up a nebulizer and begins piping oxygen into his patient’s lungs.
“Mr. Jones, you scared us there. How are you feeling?” he asks. The lifelike mannequin blinks back.
Everything around Painter looks exactly as it would in a hospital, but this is a simulation room at St. Louis Community College’s new health care facility on the Forest Park campus.
It’s designed to prepare first-year respiratory care students like Painter for clinicals, which start in the spring. By the end of the two-year program, students will clock 1,000 hours of work in hospitals around the region.
That gives students an opportunity to gain hands-on experience — and employers the chance to recruit much-needed talent. Most students who go through this program secure jobs before they graduate, but there are still thousands of health care jobs going unfilled.
Last year, there were nearly 200 job openings in St. Louis for respiratory care therapists — and 2,000 open nursing positions. St. Louis Community College is expanding and tailoring its programs to fill that need.
This kind of response to a community’s workforce needs has long played a role in the community college model, but a new statewide push aims to make job training a bigger focus everywhere.