Professor Hristos Aleksopulos, Principal Of The College Of Applied Health Sciences Ćuprija:

The Future Is Bright For Healthcare Professionals

The modern age brings with it constant progress in the medical profession and healthcare technologies, with the application of a holistic and inter-professional approach. This means we must commit to improving nurse and midwife education in Serbia and achieving permanent progress through a life-long learning programme

The College of Applied Health Sciences in Ćuprija, an institution with two decades of tradition in the education of medical experts, operates through six study programmes at the level of undergraduate studies. The quality of its work is best witnessed by this year’s “Kapetan Miša Anastasijević” award.

What else, in addition to constant education of teaching staff and investments into technology, is important for the education of future healthcare professionals?

– The entire educational process at our College of Applied Health Sciences is adapted to the needs of students, the acquisition of knowledge and quality education. Both our students and teachers are constantly being educated through scientific and professional literature accessible through KOBSON, and at international and national events in the field of health protection and healthcare. Success in completing the pre-clinical practice, conducted in College classrooms, quality exercises in teaching bases and professional clinical apprenticeships comprise an integral unit that guarantees good education for our students and their initiation into working with both healthy and sick people.

What makes a good teacher? Why are the professors from your college so well appreciated among their colleagues and students?

– As the principal, but also a professor working at the College of Applied Health Sciences for a full 17 years now, I am proud of our staff, who are qualified and competent for all forms of teaching, and also have rich practical experience acquired in healthcare institutions at all levels of health protection. Furthermore, a good professor follows new trends in the field of educational processes, uses contemporary and interactive methods of teaching and instruction, and is also oriented towards raising the level of practical knowledge and professional skills.

What employment opportunities does the diploma of your college provide in Serbia and abroad?

– If we look at Forbes’ list of the most soughtafter occupations, eight out of ten did not even exist a decade ago. The two that were in demand 10, 20, or 100 years ago include highly educated healthcare experts, like the ones we are producing at CAHS in Ćuprija. The diploma of our College is valid both in the country and abroad, so many of our graduate students find jobs in renowned healthcare institutions both in the public, as well as the private sector. I am encouraged and glad to see the efforts made by the Government of the Republic of Serbia with the Ministry of Health towards raising the quality of healthcare services, providing equipment for clinical centres, modernising equipment, as well as the professional development and employment of young healthcare experts.

Completing a secondary medical school one gains the title of healthcare technician, and after a three-year higher vocational education the title of nurse. A healthcare technician, according to EU standards, is not independent in providing medical care, instead they work based on orders by a nurse

Will the curricula of your school be fully harmonized with EU standards regarding the education of medical nurses, midwives and physiotherapists, in constant demand in Western European countries, and when?

– We are standing before the re-accreditation process of the nursing study programme, and therefore we are planning to prepare the report for this programme in accordance with the requirements of Directive 2013/55/EU on the education of nurses and midwives and to be the first state-owned school in Serbia to educate nurses and midwives in accordance with European standards.

How many years will it take for Serbia to meet one of the conditions for European Union accession, whereby 30 percent of medical nurses must hold a diploma of three, and/or four-year studies?

– Other countries in the region that became EU members were faced with the same challenges, and they made use of bridging programmes whereby working nurses and midwives educated in accordance with earlier standards were provided the opportunity to harmonise the level of education acquired. The activity of higher education is particularly important for the Republic of Serbia and is part of the European educational and scientific area, so I believe by 2020 we will have reformed higher education in accordance with European standards and the Strategy for the Development of Education.

As a College actively participating in the reform of the system of education of medical nurses and midwives in Serbia, we will intensify cooperation with all institutions involved in this process and endeavour to meet the condition of 30 percent highly educated nurses as soon as possible.

We are also recognizable based on well-developed international cooperation reflected in the exchange of students and professors, and numerous projects with results directly implemented into the educational process and the accreditation of study programmes, specializations and master programmes

Your wish is for your school to become a leader in education in the field of nursing and midwifery. How far are you from this goal?

– In late January this year, for the first time, our College organised an event on the topic of “EU standards for the profession of medical nurses and midwives – information for accession countries” attended, in addition to representatives of our College, by representatives of the Chamber of Nurses and Technicians, healthcare institutions in the region and student centres. Our school is this year’s winner of the “Kapetan Miša Anastasijević” award for the area of Šumadija and Pomoravlje, for significant contributions to the improvement of the development of higher education.

To what extent are international cooperation, the exchange of students and professors, as well as numerous projects you are working on helping you achieve the plan to be the first state school in Serbia educating nurses and midwives in accordance with European standards?

– Our College is also developing its professional, educational and research activities as a member of the European Nursing Module Network (ENM). Student exchange is reflected in attending professional apprenticeships in European healthcare institutions, as well as having students from other countries in CAHS and its teaching bases. Student exchange is effected with related schools from Norway, Switzerland, England, Bulgaria, Denmark, Spain, Macedonia and Romania. CAHS was involved as a partner in the Tempus IV project with schools comprising the Academy, the Academy from Belgium, Germany and Portugal, and this year it is involved in the Erasmus+ project.

Serbia has a surplus of professional physiotherapists, and a lack of highly educated nurses and technicians, surgical technicians and anaesthetists. How do we solve this?

– It is a fact that the records of the National Employment Service for 2017 contain professional physiotherapists, but they find employment quickly because the norms for healthcare institutions in Serbia envisage the completion of vocational studies for physiotherapists. As for the lack of surgical technicians and anaesthetists, due to the new Law on Higher Education in force since 8 October 2017, this problem will also be resolved with the introduction of “short study programmes” and the category of “study during employment” in Serbia. They make education in parallel with employment possible for precisely such deficit profiles. Based on the needs of the healthcare sector and student interest, our College will prepare such programmes for surgical technicians, anaesthetists, for parenting schools, for healthcare educators, as well as for working with persons with special needs.