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Stronger Together in Southwest Louisiana

Colleges and communities align with health care providers in Southwest Louisiana.

By Patsy B. Weiler on May 16, 2023


The health care industry is hale and hearty in Southwest Louisiana because of the strong collaboration higher education and community health organizations have with area hospitals and other providers. These relationships provide the organizations a stream of trained professionals and create solid career opportunities.

Leading School

McNeese State University, chosen by College Raptor as one of the “Hidden Gem Colleges in the Southeast,” is also ranked the third-best in Louisiana by Best Value Schools.

The school’s College of Nursing and Health Professions offers a bachelor’s degree in nursing, psychology, laboratory sciences, radiologic sciences and health systems management.

Its rigorous bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program is known for preparing graduates for success.

A major milestone on the way to becoming a practicing nurse is passing the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX, and McNeese students shine. They have a first-time passage rate of 98%, far exceeding national averages.

Registered nurses without a bachelor’s degree can participate in an online program and earn one in 12 to 18 months.  A master’s of science in nursing and a post-master’s doctorate in nursing practice are available online.

McNeese has clinical affiliation agreements with more than 100 health care agencies in Louisiana and Texas, providing hands-on clinical experiences for students that often lead to jobs.

Other areas of undergraduate study available at McNeese are pre-med, pre-dental and pre-pharmacy – with opportunities to participate in research with professors – sociology, pre-physical or occupational therapy, and a concentration in nutrition and dietetics.


Simulator Technology

Helping their students prepare for the demands of modern technology in the health care world is an area in which SOWELA excels. A technical community college that has been educating the region’s workforce since 1938, the school recently began providing its surgical technology program students with the latest technology and state-of-the-art simulators ranging from a new laparoscopic simulator to a tracheostomy mannequin.

The regionally recognized program also added a central line simulator, surgical abdomen and a hernia simulation mannequin. 

SOWELA’s School of Nursing & Allied Health also offers degrees in nursing, practical nursing and sterile processing, plus short-term certificate training offerings to be a clinical medical assistant or nursing assistant, offered online.

Through a nursing transfer agreement, SOWELA students can complete an associate of science in nursing, sit for their boards and transfer all credits to McNeese to earn their bachelor’s in nursing.

“SOWELA’s main mission is workforce development. The college works with many business and industry partners to provide the educational programs needed to build a competent, skilled and reliable pool of qualified employees,” says SOWELA Chancellor Neil Aspinwall. “The health care industry heavily relies on SOWELA to help provide the needed health care for the citizens in Southwest Louisiana.”

McNeese State University
McNeese State University

SWLA Center Offers Health Scholarships

The SWLA Center for Health Services has provided quality, cost-effective and comprehensive primary health care, plus support services for over four decades. Patients can find medical, dental, behavioral health and other specialty services offered in an environment that embraces the respect and dignity of all patients.

A strong community partner, the not-for-profit, community-based center actively embraces caring for its community and one of the ways it does so is by giving back to local youth through a scholarship program, says Dr. Tammy Mitchell, chief medical officer.

The center offers six competitive $1,000 scholarships each June to assist with college tuition. The awards support students pursuing a career in health care. Fields of study can include allied health, dentistry, forensic science, health care administration, informatics and health IT, medical lab sciences, medicine, mental health, nursing, pharmacy, public health, veterinary medicine, and more.

“It is of key importance we continue to support our youth with college tuition assistance. The thought of having these young professionals return to our service communities and possibly join our SWLA team is very exciting,” Mitchell says.

SWLA centers are in Lake Charles, Lafayette, Oberlin and Crowley.

Increased Care

Once students finish their schooling, there are several places in the area where they can obtain a job – and more are coming on the scene.

Allen Parish Community Healthcare’s recent opening of a $4.1 million clinic is bringing leading-edge primary health care to Kinder. The 13,500-square-foot clinic is the first part of a $40 million expansion project.

“It is a phenomenal, progressive facility and people are pleasantly surprised to have access to this level of care in a rural community,” says Kimberly Caldarera, marketing director and community liaison. “Now, people don’t have to invest time and finances traveling to larger cities for primary medical care and cardiology.”

The Allen Parish Rural Healthcare Clinic has 17 exam spaces and offices for eight providers, bringing a welcomed change from the previous 1970s-era clinic. Administration offices have been relocated there.

Currently underway is the second phase of construction – the new Allen Parish Community Healthcare Hospital – which should open in fall 2024 and will provide upgraded surgical and emergency services.

Under roof will be a 27,541-square-foot surgical care area with two operating rooms and a GI exam room, a larger emergency department with the addition of a trauma room, X-ray imaging, women’s health and radiology. Other plans include 25 medical/surgery beds, a pharmacy and lab, plus a dietary department.

Eventually, the 53-year-old present-day hospital will be demolished. Still to come is the project’s third phase, featuring an 8,500-square-foot behavioral health unit to house 24 beds in addition to a 25-bed medical surgical unit with ICU adaptable beds and physical and occupational therapy space.

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