Olympic College to Partner with Kitsap County and Virginia Mason to Address Health Care Workforce Shortages in Our Region

Olympic College - Virginia Mason logosMost of us are acutely aware that there is a significant shortage of health-care professionals across the United States and throughout our region. That’s one reason why Olympic College is partnering with the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners and Virginia Mason Franciscan Health (VMFH) on the first phase of building a new $10.5 million regional health sciences campus at its Poulsbo location.

With $6 million of American Recovery Plan Act funding sponsored by the Kitsap County Commissioners, another $2.5 million from VMFH, and $2 million from the College’s reserves, the first phase will include the launch of new health science programs to fill critical health care roles in the Kitsap County region. The programs include dental assisting, dental hygiene, emergency medical technician, paramedic, practical nursing for Navy Corpsman, phlebotomy, radiology technician, respiratory technician, surgical technician and ultrasound technician.

The funding for the first phase of the project will be used to retrofit the existing Poulsbo campus building, constructed nearly 20 years ago, to better meet the needs of the college’s three new programs: Radiology Technician, Surgical Technician and Ultrasound Technician. The estimated cost of modifying the building will be $8.5 million, with the remaining $2 million to be used for operational expenses in support of the programs’ faculty, staff and admissions, according to Olympic College officials.

The first phase, which is slated to take about two years to complete, will create opportunities for more than 80 new students each year.

The expansion in Poulsbo will complement Olympic College’s robust health sciences program at its Bremerton campus, which currently accepts more than 300 students each year in its nursing, medical assisting and physical therapy programs.

Olympic College - Poulsbo Campus image courtesy of the Olympic College website
Olympic College – Poulsbo Campus image courtesy of the Olympic College website

“We could not be more grateful to our partners, the Kitsap County Commissioners and Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, for their support of this desperately needed expansion of health care opportunities,” Olympic College President, Marty Cavalluzzi said. “This is just the start of a two-phased project that will significantly increase the number of highly skilled workers joining the workforce each year.”

The local partnership is launching at the same time as hospitals nationally and locally – including VMFH’s St. Michael Medical Center in Silverdale – are managing significant health care staffing challenges. For instance, nationally, the need for radiology technicians is expected to grow six percent in the next decade – faster than the average for health care occupations. Closer to home in Kitsap County, there is a need for 130 radiology technicians; however, annually, there are fewer than 100 radiology technician student spots available in all of western Washington.

“We are very proud to support Olympic College and their work to educate the next generation of health care professionals in Kitsap,” said Ketul J. Patel, Chief Executive Officer of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health and President of Northwest Region, Common Spirit Health. “We recognize the strain that staffing challenges have placed on our hard working and dedicated teams, even prior to the pandemic. By investing in workforce development in our local community, we hope to help address the existing and growing care needs of our community.”

Olympic College’s two-phased facilities build out will not only help to address current health care workforce needs in Kitsap communities, but also anticipated needs as the county experiences rapid growth. According to the Washington State Office of Financial Management growth management projections, the population of Kitsap is estimated to increase by 27,000 people by 2030, a roughly 10 percent jump.

“The Board of County Commissioners is pleased to direct American Rescue Plan Act funds towards this transformative regional investment aimed at expanding access to health care in Kitsap County,” said County Commissioner Katie Walters. We are grateful to partner with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health and Olympic College to address current challenges, meet the region’s future needs, and advance workforce development opportunities for a healthier community,”

“This partnership is vital to improving the healthcare system in Kitsap,” added County Commissioner Christine Rolfes, a Bainbridge Island resident. “For both young people and mid-career professionals, these specialized programs will provide different career pathways to explore that can improve their employment outlooks close to home, while filling critical workforce needs in our community.”

Following the completion of phase one of the Poulsbo Health Sciences Campus in fiscal year 2025, the college will launch phase two, which will focus on the development of a new 40,000-square-foot health sciences building that expands classroom and lab space.

It will include a primary care clinic, innovative learning spaces and administrative office spaces. The second phase will also develop new health sciences programs, including dental hygiene, dental assisting and emergency medical technicians. At full capacity, all new programs will enroll more than 600 students at the Poulsbo Health
Sciences Campus every year.

Source Materials: Kitsap County Press Release. Some information obtained from the Kitsap Sun. About Olympic College: Olympic.edu. About Kitsap County: www.kitsapgov.com. About Virginia Mason Franciscan Health: www.vmfh.org. 

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