There is no doubt that the Affordale Care Act is changing healthcare as we know it. But the impact expends beyond its impact on existing healthcare workers and facilities and employers who are trying to navigate the maze the is the ACA.

It’s also changing education.

“There ACA has created a tremendous need for healthcare education,” said Scott D. Peters, CEO of Healthcare Trust of America. “There is going to be an increasing demand for educators who can train added number of physicians’ assistants, technicians and nurses that will be needed to service the additional 30 million or 40 million additional people who will be seeking healthcare.”

Not only is there an increasing need to educate the healthcare workers who will be in the trenches, there is also a critical to better train health care administrators and give them the tools they need to steer through the choppy waters of the coming flood of health issues facing Baby Boomers and the uncertainty of the Affordable Care Act.

“The need for leadership will only get greater as the health care landscape unfolds,” said Anne McNamara, dean and professor of nursing in the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions at Grand Canyon University.

To help guide healthcare leaders through the challenges of the ACA, GCU has created an emphasis in Health Care Administration in its Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership.The part-time program, which will take an average of three years to complete, purposefully has a flexible curriculum that will enable it to adapt to changes in the rapidly evolving healthcare industry.

“Nothing’s changing faster than the healthcare profession, and if you can navigate an organization through that, you – and it – will be fine,” said Dr. Wayne Schmidt, content chair in the College of Doctoral Studies.

Az Business magazine met with Schmidt to discuss the new program.

Az Business: What made you decide to launch the program aimed at helping healthcare administrators understand the ACA?

Wayne Schmidt: We are always looking to add doctoral programs that will be a benefit to people who look to grow their career.  Our dean, Dr. Hank Radda, asked us to look into the healthcare field because it’s a growing field with changes happening all the time. There is a great need for people to further their education in this area.  We took a look at [the industry’s understanding of the ACA] and analyzed if there was a need for such a program.  We determined there is, and decided to run with it.

AB: Who are you targeting as potential students for the program?

WS: We are looking at people who are already in the healthcare field — mostly the administrators of a doctoral group or possible involved in the administrative side of running a hospital. Our target group is people currenty administrating some kind of a medical facility, be that a doctoral conglomerate or something like that.

AB: How did your staff develop the curriculum for the program?

WS: We brought in two “subject matter experts” (SMEs) along with three other people from our curriculum development department. I kind of locked us all in a room for two and a half days to come up with the overall framework of the program.  We did not come up with all the individual syllabi. We said, “What do we want this program to cover? What do we want our courses to cover?” And then we slotted our goals and objectives. We got all the way down to defining objectives course by course with detailed descriptions. That was the first phase of development. Now we take all that information and hire a third SME who essentially works with the curriculum development department to create the individual courses. Dr. Anne McNamara selected the two SMEs we hired for the first phase of planning this program. Those were her recommendations.

AB: When do you expect this second stage to be completed?

WS: Understand that this is a two and a half year program.  I figure we won’t be done with the last course for about another 18 months – because it won’t run until nearly two more years. Actually, we just had our first students start around the first of September.  They won’t get to their final course until almost two years from now.  All of the curriculum is run by a health practitioner in our college of nursing.  We have them involved every step of the way.

AB: How will you adapt the program if the ACA changes in any way?

WS: Well that’s the really nice thing.  Take for example HCA817 – that’s one of the courses.  Let’s say something happens now that changes the way that course is structured or taught. We can do that in a very dynamic way.  We can go out, hire a SME, redevelop the course around the changes, modify what’s in there, and then the course is ready to go for the next group of students that come through.  It’s all very fluid.  We can change that course around in a matter of eight weeks or so.

AB: What do you think this says about the uncertainty in the healthcare industry that this program is needed?

WS: I think dynamic does not necessarily mean uncertain. It just means that things are changing — particularly as you consider an aging population like we have in our country. However, it does mean that we have to stay very current with what is happening so that the program we offer meets the needs of people that are in the healthcare industry.