Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Factors Associated with Enrollment in Allied Health Education Programs: Development of a Predictive Scale

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Factors Associated with Enrollment in Allied Health Education Programs: Development of a Predictive Scale

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to identify factors related to a student's decision to enroll in college/university allied health education programs. The secondary purpose was to create a scale that can be used by colleges and universities to assess decision-making among prospective and current allied health education students. METHODS: We identified factors and developed the scale in 4 stages: 1) review of the literature, 2) focus group studies, 3) pilot testing, and 4) administration of the scale and testing of measurement properties. Research participants (n = 1,123) were students enrolled in allied and non-allied health education programs in Tennessee. RESULTS: In exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, this study identified six factors linked to the decision to enroll in allied health education programs: personal influence, social influence, academic preparation, career opportunity, individual aspiration, and self-efficacy. Discriminant function analyses further revealed that these factors predicted program enrollment status. CONCLUSION: Although this scale may not be generalizable to all allied health education fields, it may assist universities and colleges in targeting and recruiting students into their allied health education programs. J Allied Health 2011; 40(2):82-89.

MARKET DEMAND in the healthcare professions continues to increase at a rapid rate and will likely yield more than 10 million professional positions by 2016.1 The healthcare industry will produce more new jobs than any other in the United States, and "service" positions within this industry will see some of the greatest growth.2 Allied health positions make up a substantial percentage of healthcare jobs, especially in the service area. It is not surprising, then, that several allied health professions are projected to see some of the largest employment growth.2

Unfortunately, the increased demand for allied health professionals will likely outpace supply, resulting in workforce shortages.3-5 One cause of this projected imbalance is the aging "baby-boomer" population. Specifically, older adults will soon constitute 20% of the U.S. population, and because of their associated chronic conditions and healthcare needs, the Institute of Medicine predicts that the American workforce will be too small to meet the demand.6 The likely shortage of allied healthcare workers will present a major healthcare challenge to both rural and urban communities.3,4,7,8

This shortage must be met by training of additional professionals. Given that licensure and certification requirements in allied health professions require graduation from postsecondary institutions, the training onus falls on higher education. As a result, allied health education programs have now become "hot majors."9,10 To recruit ample future professionals for the field, administrators, recruitment officers, and program directors must understand factors that affect a student's decision to enroll in allied health education.

INFLUENCES ON ENROLLMENT IN ALLIED HEALTH EDUCATION PROGRAMS

Numerous investigators have conducted studies attempting to identify factors affecting enrollment in allied health education. Although these exploratory investigations have usually addressed enrollment influences specific to a particular degree program, several themes have collectively emerged. The four most common influences identified across allied health education programs have been mentoring, awareness of opportunities in the field, job worth, and altruism.

Mentoring. Within higher education, mentoring is a process by which personal relationships are developed to foster student growth, especially in the areas of professional and career development. Mentoring experiences can be planned or unplanned activities, but the key aspect is the personal involvement of the mentor toward the student.11 Specific to allied health education enrollment, important mentoring influences have consisted of family members,12,13 high school or college counselors,13-15 and allied health professionals. …

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