Luverne Education Center to expand

LUVERNE -- Less than a year after Minnesota West Community and Technical College opened the Luverne Educational Center for Health Careers in the former Luverne hospital building, plans have been announced to expand programming at the facility.

LUVERNE -- Less than a year after Minnesota West Community and Technical College opened the Luverne Educational Center for Health Careers in the former Luverne hospital building, plans have been announced to expand programming at the facility.

Beginning this fall, medical laboratory technician (MLT) and medical assistant (MA) programs will be offered to students. In addition, certifications in phlebotomy can also be obtained on site.

The two-year lab tech program provides an associate of applied science degree, while the medical assistant program can be taken as either a one-year diploma or two-year associate of applied science degree.

The MLT and MA programs have been offered to students at the Worthington campus of Minnesota West, but will now be moved to Luverne because its center provides a more realistic learning environment for students.

"It's a true hospital environment," said Gary Gillin, Minnesota West's Dean of Communication and Enrollment.


The new programs will operate in 4,300 square feet of space in the southwest quadrant of the former hospital. Now under renovation, the space that was once a nurse's station and patient rooms will provide for a science lab, two classrooms and five clinic/lab rooms.

"The MLT students will practice in a true lab setting of the hospital," Gillin said. "They will get a more true life experience in their lab setting."

By moving the MLT and MA programs to Luverne, Gillin said Minnesota West can also capitalize on close proximity to the metropolitan area of Sioux Falls, S.D.

"We have a number of students from South Dakota that are within commuting distance," he said, adding that the majority of students still hail from the southwest corner of Minnesota.

Even with the addition of the two new programs at Luverne, Gillin said there are still more opportunities to expand the site.

"Our long-term goal is to take (the center) and develop it as we go," he said. "We have some great opportunities with that facility over there."

Just how much growth the center will experience depends on the City of Luverne, which owns the entire facility.

Luverne City Administrator John Call said the hospital portion of the building will be completely filled with the current renovation project. That leaves the entire clinic for future development.


"This is kind of what we envisioned when we worked with Minnesota West and Sioux Valley, which is now Sanford Health Systems," Call said. "We envisioned different medical programs here that would be successful, and that is what we are getting."

Call said the addition of two new programs at the Luverne site will be good not only for the community, but also for local high school graduates and students from throughout the tri-state area.

"We are just really excited about our partnership with Minnesota West, and we're looking for more students to be here this fall," he added.

Renovations began in mid-March on the expanded classrooms for the center, and Call anticipates the rooms will be completed by late July.

With the addition of the new programs, four new faculty members will be located in Luverne. Those faculty members will lead the two existing programs at the center -- radiologic technology and surgical technology.

"I think the main thing is that we are centralizing a lot of our allied health programs under one roof," Gillin said. "Primarily it's to ... make a more uniform environment for students to learn in."

Enrollments are already being accepted for the two new programs, slated to begin this fall. Gillin expects all four of the programs offered at the site to be competitive.

"There's national shortages in both (the MLT and MA) programs," he said. The MLT program only has room for 14 to 16 students at a time.


As for the existing programs at the center, the radiologic tech program is already filled for the coming year, while the surgical tech program's 24 spots are close to being filled.

"We don't take a lot of students in the radiologics program," Gillin said. "It's based on the number of clinical sites that we have. We have 14 students per year that can be in that program."

The health careers programs offered through Minnesota West have been popular because of the availability of jobs in the region.

"We have 100 percent job placement in the MLT program," Gillin said.

Since 2003, all students taking the MLT program have passed their national boards.

In addition to the health careers courses, Gillin said liberal arts programs are also available at the Luverne site. For more information on the programs available, people can contact the Luverne Educational Center for Health Careers at (507) 449-2772, or one of the five campuses of Minnesota West. The Pipestone campus serves as the host campus for the center in Luverne.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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