Today@Sam Article

Health Care Quality and Safety Program Ready To Lead The Texas Workforce

June 24, 2020
SHSU Media Contact: Karen Leonhart

cohsimage0Today, the topic of health care and safety seems to dominate our world . Advertisements no longer promote upcoming sales or newly released products. Instead, cleaning measures or touchless customer service to help protect us are the most sought-after products and services.

Not only have our daily lives changed, but the way our health care system operates will forever be impacted.

According to the National Health Care Quality Report, Texas ranks 41 out of 50 in all health care quality and safety measures. Sam Houston State University is helping health care organizations fill the gap with qualified graduates from the Masters of Science in Health Care Quality and Safety program. This executive degree program is designed to prepare busy health care professionals for leadership roles in the quality and safety areas in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and other health care organizations.

“Even before COVID-19, quality, along with safety, has become an increasingly more important topic these last 10 years with the enactment of Obamacare, and as health care reimbursement has become increasingly tied to quality outcomes,” said Dr. Yue Xie, assistant professor and graduate coordinator for the program.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission Report on Texas Growth Occupations, Health Care Quality and Safety related occupations made both the list of the Top 25th percent in growth job openings by 2022 and the Top 25th percentile in median pay as of 2013 in the Texas workforce.

“It is a very logical road to go down for nurses and health care workers because they care about patient care and quality, and want to stay in health care. They just might not want to be on the bedside of it anymore. They can move into leadership roles,” Xie said.

Current and former students are passionate about this degree plan and the impact it has had on their lives:

Leonard Jecmenek, a recent graduate from the program, is the safety director of Hyperbarics at Baylor Wound Center.

“You have to remain up-to-date on the industry and be able to comply with local, state, federal government regulations in order to run a safe operation. I looked around a few years ago for a quality or safety program and didn’t find anything that fit. Then I came across the SHSU program while getting my daughter enrolled at SHSU. We joke that I am her legacy,” Jecmenek said.

Kimberly Jarrell, faculty member and SHSU Alumni, has worked in the health care industry both as a nurse and in quality and compliance roles. She says her passion for quality health care stemmed from the personal experience of the loss of a loved one by hospital error.

“While working in the nursery, I found that due to the busy nature of the work, nurses were missing things. I ended up making tools and checklists for them to use to streamline the process and create structure. I really became a patient care advocate and wanted to lead change in the health care industry,” Jarrell said. “You do the right things for the right reasons, not because of regulations. You provide quality care because it is the right thing to do.”

Deanna Otts Whitfield, a dental hygienist halfway through the program at SHSU, always wanted to pursue a master’s but wasn’t sure what she wanted to focus on.

“Finally I had the confidence to just apply and do it. I’m not going to practice clinical hygiene forever so now is the time,” Whitefield said. “I’ve learned so much from my classmates because they are either from the nursing field or professionals from the health care industry. They bring a different perspective than the dental field. This degree could help me get to my goal of impacting the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners to allow licensed dental hygienists be able to work in a hospital setting where there is no dentist.

Another program alumni, Albert Villanueva, said that COVID has caused him to implement a lot of change management skills from his courses. He decided to get a master’s degree to improve his chances of getting a promotion and make a transition into a director role.

“It’s easy to be passionate about it because I live the subject. All the course information is very relevant. I was actually promoted one year into the program.”

Villanueva worked as a nurse for 24 years and in the last eight he’s been in a supervisory role in the St. Luke’s Emergency Department. He shared his thoughts on SHSU’s program overall and the importance it has had in his life and his field of work.

To find out more about the Masters of Science in Health Care Quality and Safety program in the College of Health Science at SHSU, visit

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