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NECC Publishes Report with Recommendations on Post-Pandemic Healthcare Education

Submitted by on November 10, 2020 – 9:20 pm
Two nursing students in white coats and scrubs.

Two NECC allied health students.

Northern Essex Community College has released a report that will help community colleges, employers, and policymakers statewide develop new learning models for educating allied health professionals, such as medical assistants, technicians, LPN’s, respiratory care therapists, and radiologic technicians, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The publication, Creating More “Pockets of Good”:  Fostering Innovation in Post-Pandemic Healthcare Education, was funded by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education through its Higher Education Innovation Fund and written by Volta Learning Group, a higher education consulting firm. It reflects input from educators, practitioners, and policymakers as well as extensive research.

The COVID-19 pandemic has stretched hospitals and long-term care facilities beyond their limits. The report explores the challenges as well as offering best practices from within the Commonwealth and nationally to address those challenges. Included are specific steps policy makers, educators, regulators, and employers can take to help advance the frontline health care workforce of the future.

The report uncovered a number of issues impacting the supply of qualified health care workers, according to Kim Burns, Northern Essex’s dean of innovation and professional development, who provided leadership for the project. “We found limited awareness of health care career options, a shortage of clinical training slots, a lack of flexibility in training programs stymie career pathways, and a need for greater community engagement all contributing factors.”

Some of the solutions include providing for better information about the breadth of health care careers; leveraging technology to address the shortage in clinical placements; creating additional pathways for frontline health care workers; increasing alignment between education and workforce needs; and driving equity through community engagement,” according to Burns.

Lane Glenn, president of Northern Essex Community College, said “This report is going to result in better health care for Massachusetts citizens. We will use the findings to help secure funding and partnerships that will lead to improved health care education.”

Patricia Marshall, who as deputy commissioner for academic affairs & student success at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education oversees the Higher Education Innovation Fund, expressed her support of the report. “We are proud to have sponsored this important work.  The many important observations and recommendations can truly be a valuable ‘innovation playbook’ for the health care education ecosystem. It dovetails other efforts currently underway and may suggest a roadmap for the future.”

The Playbook is available for download on the NECC website. To learn more, contact Kim Burns, Dean of Academic Innovations and Professional Development at

Northern Essex Community College has campuses in both Haverhill and Lawrence. It offers approximately 60 associate degree and certificate programs as well as hundreds of noncredit courses designed for personal enrichment and career growth.  Each year, 6,000 students are enrolled in credit associate degree and certificate programs on the Haverhill and Lawrence campuses; and another 2,000 take noncredit workforce development and community education classes on campus, and at businesses and community sites across the Merrimack Valley.  For more information, visit the website at or call 978-556-3700.

Volta Learning Group ( works with visionary higher education, business and workforce leaders that believe they should help workers and learners prepare for the future of work.  Volta offers a new approach to learning that integrates workforce relevance and academic rigor, fueled by on-the-ground success in using labor market intelligence to inform digital project-based learning and assessment strategies, competency-based education, and stackable microcredentials.