Medical Proposals Cut Deep

“It’s been hard on me,” Brenda Walstead said. “I’ve cried. There’s been days when I come back to the office and I just…”

Walstead faded off as she sat in her office. “Every proposed cut kills me,” she said.

As the Interim Dean of Business and Health Sciences, Walstead has been involved in the budget reduction process through the entire summer. Her departments are facing more than $1 million in proposed budget cuts between the medical and physical fitness programs.

Medical programs make up the majority of the proposed cuts in Walstead’s unit, which includes Nursing and PE. Nursing would lose $400,000 in funding, reducing the accepted students per quarter from 48 to 32. The program does not accept students in the summer quarter. The program would also lose access to many off-campus clinical sites.

The Pharmacy Technician program is facing the loss of one cohort, a group of students who study and take courses together over the length of the program. Students currently start classes in the spring and fall quarters. If the cuts are finalized, one of the quarters will be dropped, according to Dawn Shults, the program director.

Both the Nursing Assistant and Medical Radiography programs are slated to be cut under the current proposal. The Medical Radiography program was recently accredited, according to Walstead.

Program heads from the Nursing Assistant and Medical Radiography programs could not be reached for comment.

Cynthia Myers, the director of Nursing, serves on the Instructional Council that proposed the budget cuts over the summer.

She said it has been hard on her to maintain a balance between her program and the needs of the college. “We, as an Instructional Council, take these decisions very seriously.”

The Nursing program is facing losing access to 96 off-campus clinical placement sites, including PeaceHealth Southwest, Myers said. With 144 students per quarter, Clark students currently make up 59 percent of the clinical placements at PeaceHealth, according to Myers.

Myers said the Nursing department has included this information in the packet to the Instructional Council. The packet also includes statistics from the Washington Nursing Association and national sources to counter the college’s position that there are not enough jobs locally for nurses.

“Our students don’t just stay in Clark County,” Myers said. “They go all over the world after they graduate here, and the information from the budget reduction proposal doesn’t reflect that.”

Shults echoed the same sentiment saying there is a need for pharmacy technicians in the area. The program relies on externships at clinics in the area, and Shults said she often gets emails from employers about job openings, particularly for Clark graduates.

Shults said the depth of Clark’s program appeals to employers because the program requires prerequisites in Anatomy and various physiological courses that other programs do not.

Students also get more instruction in pharmacy technician skills they might not get in other programs. “We have an IV add/mix component with a lab that other programs in the area do not.”

For students, the cost of the program is also a huge factor, Shults said. Other programs in the Vancouver area can be five times more expensive than Clark’s, according to Shults.

She said the other programs don’t always offer financial aid either. “The cost of these programs is prohibitive.”

Students will also have to wait longer to get into the Pharmacy Technician program if the cuts go through, she said. There are currently 150-180 students taking prerequisites and waiting to get into the program, with most students waiting one year.

Shults said she is compiling data on jobs and comparable programs in the area for her appeal. “I think we are beyond emotional appeal at this point.”

According to Shults, if the proposed cuts become a reality, the Pharmacy Technician program could lose one full-time faculty member.

Officials from the Nursing and Pharmacy Technician programs have reached out to the community for letters and information to present to the Instructional Council in their appeal.

Myers said she also spoke to her students who have independently drafted a proposal to retain full funding of the Nursing program. The packet includes personal stories of how the nursing program has changed their lives.

If the proposal becomes a reality, the process would be gradual and methodical. “We will together as a faculty and administration design a way to make the reductions happen.,” Myers said. “We won’t just say you have the lowest seniority so you’re the one to go. We have accreditation standards and other things to look at.”

Myers said the nursing program could potentially lose eight to 10 part-time faculty in the reduction if it becomes a reality.

Moving forward, Walstead said she is hopeful that all will work out for the college. “I am determined and I will help the students,” she said. “I will work with the faculty. I will do all that I can to keep spirits high and maintain a culture of learning. This doesn’t just hurt me, it hurts everyone.”


  1. I’m surprised they haven’t cut Phlebotomy…oh wait, oh yeah…no financial aid! It’s all an out of pocket expense for the student and that is a “Clark Cash Cow!” The market is flooded, yet they keep popping them out. Odd.

  2. I agree with you! These allied health programs are a business to make money for the school. Don’t expect an honest answer. It is better to ask the people who working the field what they think. Most will say the schools produce too many students for the market. I have worked with several former clark students who are still looking for full-time work years after graduation! The longer the time gap since school the less likely you are to retain your clinical skills and get hired. Good luck paying back students loans when the only job prospects are nothing or on-call. Shutting down these programs is the right thing to do.

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