Division touts leadership changes, certificate additions

Rolando Fissella

Noted for its outstanding nursing program, the Health Sciences and Human Services division is in flux. Not with regard to courses and services to students, but with regard to administrative leadership.

In late June, Donna Rane-Szostack was hired away from Cal State University San Bernardino to be dean of the division and since then the buzz of new direction has been in the air.

“We’ve had interim leadership but it’s nice to be settled,” said Diane Pestolesi, acting assistant division dean who has returned to the nursing faculty.

Pestolesi will be stepping down from the position as acting assistant dean but will remain a member of the nursing faculty. The interim dean for the past year, Tammy Rice, will also be staying as the new assistant dean.

Szostack comes with a bagful of big credentials.  At San Bernardino she was the Coordinator of Nursing Program.  According to information released by Saddleback College President Tod Burnett, Szostack is well known for pioneering online education in the nursing field. She was the Project Director of CSUSB’s registered nursing Bachelor’s of Arts degree program at it’s satellite campus in Palm Desert campus and coordinated more than $3 million in grants and funding for nursing and grant programs.

“I’m very much looking forward to working with all of the students in the program and meeting them,” Szostack said, who will retain Tammy Rice, former division dean as her assistant.

The division offers many certificate programs leading to well-paying jobs in the marketplace.  Rice and Pestolesi were instrumental in the development of many of these certificate programs.

According to Pestolesi, the expansion on these certification offerings will continue this fall with two new programs: a medical laboratory technician program and a mental health worker certificate/ associate degree program.

These programs will be an addition to the already successful collection of medical and human service courses.

Included in this collection of outstanding courses, is the paramedic program, where students learn Advanced Life Support (ALS) and expand their knowledge of emergency response.

Phlebotomy allows students to prepare for a career of collecting specimens, do venipunctures, and clean and maintain medical laboratory equipment. 

If a student wants to pursue a profession that isn’t medical, the division offers students training in human services like social work, criminal justice, and mentoring.

“As I worked as a nurse practitioner, I also worked with social workers and saw how fantastic the opportunity for collaboration was,” Szostack said

But, clearly, nursing is a standout program in the division.  The program is hard to get into. Entrance is based 75 percent on over-all grade point average, as well as a review of biology grades. The remaining 25 percent consists of a lottery where students are chosen at random.

According to payscale.com, the median hourly pay rate for registered nurses in California for 2009 as of June was $33.73. The nursing program will set students up for a career in this area.

The division is also moving  to an increased use of technology in the classroom. The constantly expanding medical field means the education must also be constantly expanding,  Pestolesi said.

 This expansion includes using more hybrid learning with a mix of online and in-class learning, right up the new deans ally.

The division is also looking to purchase more human patient simulators for the nursing, paramedic and emergency medical technician courses. These simulators give the students a hands-on approach to learning the material, Pestolesi said.

“No question that about it, I visited all the labs and was very impressed,” Szostack said. “Saddleback has a wonderful reputation throughout the state and I’m thrilled about being apart of that.”

The division is excited about the opportunity to partner with outside clinical agencies with each program.  Some of these include the Orange County Fire Authority and Hoag and Mission Hospital among others.

“This is the kind of education that can be used and applied in a student’s professional and personal life,” Pestolesi said.

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