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Rend Lake College’s Allied Health program is more than a nursing program. The program encompasses 12 specializations with a range of degrees and certificates.

I chatted with Kim Wilkerson, dean of the Allied Health program, and Nathan Wheeler, Rend Lake College’s coordinator of digital media and marketing, about the ways they use digital media to attract and prepare students for a socially conscious, digital-first healthcare sector.

The Allied Health program, in cooperation with the marketing team at Rend Lake College, perform common operations many institutions perform when promoting a program and attracting student talent. They use multiple platforms and consistently promote programs before and during enrollment and testing periods.

Promotion starts in the Allied Health program. Wilkerson’s team creates imagery and text to be shared with audiences across platforms used by Rend Lake College, which includes Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram.

Due to the volume of degrees and certificates offered at Rend Lake College, 110 in total, allowing programs to originate their own content ensures accuracy when those programs coordinate with Wheeler’s marketing team.

On the flipside, when Wheeler’s team receives a communication in response to a post from a program like Allied Health, he and his team members are quick to connect prospective students with folks like Wilkerson who manager different programs.

In other instances, like when a family member or friend tags a prospective student in a post, Wilkerson’s program often fields phone calls and emails from those same prospective students the very next day.

Marketing individual programs across the entire curriculum of Rend Lake College is standardized, but what the Allied Health program does differently than other programs, particularly in their nursing programs, is to use Facebook Groups to socialize students into the nursing profession.

Nursing students in the Allied Health program have the option to, but are not required to, join Facebook groups where they interact with first- and second-year students, as well as faculty and staff. It’s an additional layer to the use of Blackboard, an online organizational tool used by educational institutions, and it’s a layer that makes sense for Wilkerson’s students.

Since many students are already using Facebook for everyday communication with friends and family, Wilkerson’s program has taken resources to where her students already are, instead of forcing her students to seek out resources in other ways.

Their program’s use of Facebook Groups varies greatly and it reflects the nursing community students will join upon entering the workforce.

Facebook Groups are used by nursing students, staff and faculty for questions and answers, sharing of topical humor through memes, and in utilitarian manners such as buying and selling of industry goods like scrubs.

The questions and answers shared among group participants helps develop confidence among students who become healthcare workers. Oftentimes, students will answer questions asked by other students, and in doing so, lay the foundation for build trusting fellow nurses in the workplace.

Sharing of topical humor through memes related to nursing and healthcare helps prepare nursing students by allowing them an opportunity to develop digital empathy skills that will be necessary in the healthcare facilities of the future.

Buying and selling industry goods within the groups is convenient for buyers and sellers, some of whom need stuff, and some of whom need to get rid of stuff, and who are much likely to find buyers and sellers in specialized spaces like their nursing groups.

Rend Lake College comprehends that the people who make social media social are the most important component across the platforms they use. It’s illustrated in their recruitment campus-wide, but also illustrated in program-specific instances like nursing’s use of Facebook Groups.

Nathan Colombo is a Carbondale native, stand-up comedian, and marketing professional. His small business, Brand Advocacy Group, Inc, provides digital media services for other small, local businesses in and around Southern Illinois.

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