A Path to the Next Step

Continuing education offerings provide opportunities to move

Bryan Lang is in the office by around 7 a.m. each morning, and he doesn’t close up until after 6 p.m. each night.

Fueled by a single cup of coffee a day, the physical therapist says the long hours don’t bother him.

“When I was working (at my previous job), I didn’t work as long hours, but I felt wiped out and exhausted more,” said Lang PT ’13, MHA ’14. “Now, I work longer hours, but I’m not as tired.

“Working for something that’s yours, that’s a reflection of you, makes a difference. You have more energy to go and do.”

Lang was always interested in a career in the health professions, and he chose physical therapy, over, say, medical school, in part because he wanted to be established in his profession before the age of 30.

“I saw myself as a young professional,” he said.

At 26, he is that: He’s not just practicing; he owns the Northwest Portland clinic where he and a partner physical therapist see patients.

He also is helping others follow in his tracks, co-teaching a continuing education course in practice management through Pacific’s College of Health Professions.

Pacific University is rare in its almost equal population of undergraduate and graduate students. The combination of undergraduate liberal arts and sciences with graduate and professional programs in optometry, health professions, education, business and more gives students a myriad of pathways to the next step in their education or career.

Pre-professional tracks help undergraduates earn their bachelor’s degree and complete prerequisites for grad school. Dual enrollment programs at the graduate level allow healthcare professionals to earn clinical and administrative degrees. (Lang, for example, earned his doctorate in physical therapy plus his master’s in healthcare administration concurrently at Pacific. Read more in “Private Practice.”)

Continuing education, or CE, takes the next step, offering alumni and other professionals the ongoing training required to maintain their licenses, as well as learn new skills to enhance their careers.

“Like all other businesses, innovations are always coming,” said Jeanne Oliver, director of external relations for the College of Optometry.

Oliver organizes everything from online courses for optometrists to some of the college’s most notable destination conferences, such as Island Eyes in Hawai‘i each January or the Victoria Conference in British Columbia each July.

“They get more technology, new devices that they need to know about. Contact lenses keep changing. Electronic health records are big right now,” she said. “You’ve got to learn how to do all these things in order to keep in practice.”

The same is true in the College of Health Professions, where Pacific is a bit newer to offering continuing education. Lisa Downing coordinates courses that meet CE requirements for practitioners in a variety of fields, from occupational and physical therapy to psychology and pharmacy. Many of the health professions CE courses are interdisciplinary in nature, offering professionals opportunities to come together for a common cause.

“The (Affordable Care Act) requires more efficient practices,” Downing said. “And our patients in Oregon go to a great buffet of healthcare: naturopaths, internists, self-referrals to PT, acupuncture, counseling. They all have to talk together or they’re not giving good care.”

Recent course topics have included smoking cessation, traumatic brain injury, and adolescent wellness.

“You come out of school as a generalist,” Lang said. “(Healthcare) is constantly changing, evolving. If you don’t stay on top of the curve, it’s easy to become complacent and use a cookie-cutter approach. You start to specialize in continuing education.”

Then there are the opportunities for other kinds of professional growth. Optometry and other health professions typically don’t count practice management toward continuing education requirements for licensing, but many professionals are interested all the same.

Practice management is already a part of the College of Optometry curriculum, but the College of Health Professions has been adding more training through CE.

“We have a number of alumni who are coming because they want to change what they do,” Downing said. “They are at a place in their career where they’ve gone to Pacific, got licensed, and worked for other people … now they’re ready for more, and we can help.”

Downing said she sees the ongoing opportunities as part of the value of a Pacific University education — a part that lasts long after graduation.

“As a graduate, you remain our customer for life,” Downing said.

Lang has partnered with School of Professional Psychology Professor Robin Shallcross in teaching one of the courses in the college’s new six-part series, “Build Your Own Healthcare Practice.” Their course is “Do I Have What It Takes To Run My Own Business?”

“It’s not all rainbows and butterflies,” Lang said. “To do something like this, you have to figure out what works for you, your significant other, your family. You have to find out what their expectations of you are and what’s feasible.”

But, he said, a private business also doesn’t necessarily require the hours he chooses to work — and it’s not the pipe dream some assume.

“People shouldn’t look at owning a business as a daunting, unreachable task,” he said. “I definitely don’t regret anything so far.”

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