The aftershock of the Affordable Care Act continues to cause tremors throughout the medical field.

While the law’s reverberations may have caught some off guard, hospitals and networks had begun realigning their staff and streamlining care well before President Obama signed the bill into law.

“Health care was already going in that direction,” says William Nelson, dean of academic affairs at Kettering College. Nelson and his faculty at Kettering have implemented courses to suit all students heading into the changing health-care industry.

“We’ve always looked at the needs and we’ve always tried to stay in tandem with what employer’s needs and what patients need,” he says.

Since 1967, Christian-based Kettering College has taught and trained health-care professionals to meet patient’s evolving needs. Nearly 50 years later, Kettering continues the tradition of marrying curriculum with patient necessity.

While Kettering has a wide variety of course offerings, roughly a third of their 900 students are enrolled in the nursing program. The effects of the ACA will have a huge impact on nurses, which means Kettering programs must fall in line with hospital needs.

“Nurses now have to become thinkers and not just doers,” says Cherie Rebar, Kettering College’s nursing program director. “They have to synthesize information to make a multitude of complex judgments, instead of just doing or carrying out a task.”

In the past, nurses often carried out the doctor’s directives. Now Rebar sees an environment where nurses will be asked to understand symptoms and treat patients accordingly.

In an effort that replaces a “trade school for nurses” image, Kettering has expanded nursing program to three years.

Students who graduate from the program in 2014 will be the last group to receive an associate's degree. Kettering now requires a three-year baccalaureate program for all nursing students.

Nora Basanez, a 21-year-old nursing student at Kettering, plans on graduating in July. Her interest in helping people, along with her brother’s acceptance to medical school at Vanderbilt University, inspired her to enroll in Kettering. She hopes her Kettering education will set her apart from other nursing graduates when she hits the job market this summer.

“Having a bachelor’s in nursing is vitally important,” says Basanez, “The way they put it is ‘we are giving you an advantage over the people who just have an associate's.’”

Kettering’s baccalaureate curriculum draws from a variety of academic disciplines including statistics, psychiatry, public health research and faith-based electives.

“There was a time when associate degrees would be more than enough, but the complexion of nursing has changed,” says Rebar. “Nurses are now being asked to do more than ever.”

The new curriculum requires students to read and understand journal articles once reserved for physicians. Along with hands-on lab sessions, health fairs, and shadowing physicians, the nursing program stresses a team environment where nurses learn from each other.

“Cutting down on employee numbers effects high-quality care but I think collaborative care is great and I legitimately see it working for everybody,” says Basanez.

Nelson also envisions an uptick of students in Kettering’s master of physician assistant studies program. As doctor and nurse responsibilities expand, Nelson sees physicians becoming an important part of the treatment process.

“Physician assistants will have a lot more latitude than what they did before,” says Nelson. “A lot of [physician assistants] will be involved in the initial analysis of a patient, dealing with families, while under the supervision of a physician. Nurses and physicians' assistants are experiencing a lot of the health care law's new changes, and we’re trying to make sure our programs are in align with those trends.”

Kettering also plans to introduce an occupational therapy doctorate degree. Announced in February, the college submitted a candidacy application to Accreditations Council of Occupation Therapy Education, the Ohio Board of Regents, the Higher Learning Commission and the Adventist Accrediting Association.

Pending all approvals, Kettering College hopes to have the new program in place by fall 2014 semester.

Currently, there are only five accredited entry-level occupational therapy programs in the United States and only one other in Ohio. Based on a feasibility study, as well as numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Kettering expects to see occupational therapy positions grow by more than 20 percent by 2020.

“A lot of the need stems from people retiring and lifestyle needs,” says Wilson.

The new program will run eight semesters over 32 months, while all applicants will be required to have a bachelor’s degree in a related field.

The introduction of the doctoral program is the latest effort to stay at the forefront of medical education and treatment.

“Everyone needs to be prepared for a diverse set of patient needs,” says Rebar.