Sophomore Kyleigh Snavely says she found a little more “oomph” in her classes when she returned to campus in the fall.

The dietetics and exercise science double major is working more closely with future nurses and respiratory therapists. It’s a new kind of teamwork that is helping all involved now that all four disciplines are, for the first time, under the same college at Ball State.

“In our labs, we can come together to check on a patient and then work together from different perspectives — nursing, dietetics and respiratory therapy — to figure out what is wrong,” said Snavely, who hails from Bloomington, Illinois. “This certainly simplifies the process.”

Her experience is just an early reflection of Ball State’s newly formed College of Health (COH), which in the fall brought together six academic units and nearly 30 degree programs as part of a strategy to meet the state’s rising demand for professionals in a field that increasingly relies on collaboration.

School of Nursing students work in a lab.

The School of Nursing, whose graduates have a 90 percent job placement rate, is part of the newly formed College of Health. (Photo by Samantha Blankenship)

“This is just one example of Ball State’s focus on the future,” said Terry King, interim president of the university. “One of our hallmarks has been innovative planning and being first to identify — and respond to — societal shifts and needs. The College of Health not only anticipates and responds to a growing need for medical support training in Indiana and beyond but exemplifies our ongoing commitment to providing well-rounded graduates who are real-world-ready for the challenges of today as well as tomorrow.”

The centerpiece of the new college’s learning environment, known as interprofessional education (IPE), is a model that instills collaboration among students in different areas of health care as a means to improve patient care. The idea is that the collaboration that took root in school will continue in the practice environment.

“Our students are interacting with future colleagues in counseling, nutrition and social work to improve patient care,” said Mitch Whaley, who earlier this year became the college’s first dean. “Our graduates will enter the workforce prepared to be a part of teams that create a more unified health care system.”

Whaley, previously the dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Technology, is a noted researcher in exercise physiology and joined Ball State in 1986 as a professor of exercise science.

He led a campuswide team to create the new college by bringing various health-related units under one roof, administratively, from several existing colleges.

The college’s six academic units — Department of Counseling Psychology, Social Psychology, and Counseling; Department of Nutrition and Health Science; Department of Social Work; Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology; School of Kinesiology; and School of Nursing — offer one associate degree, 13 bachelor’s, 10 master’s and four doctorates.

The college also includes 15 centers, clinics and labs, which advance pioneering research and provide services for the campus and local community, ranging from adult physical fitness programs to speech and language diagnosis and therapy.

Whaley said the college will position Ball State to meet a growing need in Indiana for health care professionals. In 2015, a market analysis by the university noted that Indiana health occupations were expected to grow by nearly 25 percent from 2012 to 2022. This growth is close to twice the projected overall job growth in the state (13.7 percent) and the nation (13.2 percent) over the same time period.

A student in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology performs work related to her major

The Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology is another of the Ball State programs now consolidated under the College of Health, which promises interdisciplinary collaboration as a means to better serve patients. (Ball State photo)

“The College of Health comes along at a transformational time for health professionals,” he said. “The marketplace has a critical need for skilled and adaptable professionals who are clinically knowledgeable, adept at critical thinking and problem-solving and devoted to lifelong learning. These are exactly the kinds of individuals the College of Health will graduate.”

Construction is expected to begin in 2017 on a technology-centered building specifically designed for students and faculty in the health professions. Its 150,000 square feet will include classrooms, clinical spaces, laboratories, offices and a resource hub.

At its heart will be a 30,000-square-foot simulation space, where students in the different disciplines will learn together. This collaboration will make already highly skilled graduates even more marketable, said Linda Siktberg, director of the School of Nursing.

“We are moving away from a health care operation where various medical specialties and associated professionals fail to communicate,” she said. “In many medical facilities, a patient and the family may be asked the same set of questions over and over by different people, such as a nurse, a social worker and then the insurance representative. Unfortunately, it’s a very fragmented system that isn’t in the best interest of the family or the patient.

“We want the patient to be put at the center and are developing a new simulation lab that will do just that,” she said.

King noted the value that the College of Health will bring to the state.

“The new college and facilities will ensure that Ball State continues to offer critical education so graduates are best positioned to serve their communities,” he said. “Our Career Center data shows that nearly 80 percent of Ball State graduates remain in the state to start their careers, build homes, nurture families and contribute to the overall well-being of Indiana.”