SOUTH GATE, Calif. — Inside Room 103 at the East LA College South Gate campus, 26-year-old Kevin Cardoso is putting sensors on a mannequin, learning how to get a patient ready for an EKG.
“My dream has always been to become a doctor ever since I was a little,” Cardoso said.
Cardoso is about to finish a two-year program at ELAC as a medical assistant. Growing up in East LA, he knows how hard access to medical professionals can be.
“The reason why I wanted to become a doctor is because of the language barrier,” Cardoso said. “My parents are Spanish speaking, so you can already imagine the barriers that are already there in the health care system.”
And access to the system could get even harder in the coming years. The American Hospital Association estimates a shortage of up to 3.2 million health care workers by 2026, and it will be felt most intensely in low-income and rural communities.
Pablo Garcia Jr., who is a faculty instructor at ELAC, is feeling the strain.
“I believe that the shortage is actually starting now, as we speak,” Garcia Jr. said. “Many health care providers and health care workers, such as nurses and doctors, etc., have decided to retire. The pandemic was a bit much to be experiencing.”
One in five health care workers left their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report by Beckers Hospital Review, and another one third of all nurses say they want to quit their jobs by the end of this year, according to a survey by Incredible Health. One way to tackle this shortage is by expanding access to health education programs. So, ELAC’s South Gate campus is receiving $1.8 million from Rep. Nanette Diaz-Barragán and Sen. Alex Padilla to keep growing their Allied Health Training Hub.
“With the … funding that the school is getting, it will not only provide for bigger rooms but also better equipment,” Cardoso said. “This is already a testament, the mannequin, because when I started last year, we didn’t have the mannequin and this is a big improvement.”
The money also will allow students to more easily complete their courses all on one campus, which could improve attendance, grades and even graduation rates among students with full-time jobs or single mothers.
“I’ve sat where they’ve sat before and I’ve come from the communities they come from. Anything is possible and dreams do come true so long as you put the hard work, the effort, the dedication, there is nothing you can’t do,” Garcia Jr. said.
Around 30 students will graduate with health-related certificates and degrees this summer from ELAC’s South Gate campus, including Cardoso.
“Having people of color, people they (patients) can identify themselves with, will make it easier and more likely for patients to go seek medical care,” Cardoso said.