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Normandale Community College

The Rx for Holistic Health Careers

Sunny Ainley, Mindy Hangsleben, Tracy Mastel (left to right)

Sunny Ainley, Mindy Hangsleben, Tracy Mastel (left to right)

“Normandale’s Integrative Health Education Center is one of the best kept secrets in the Twin Cities,” according to Sunny Ainley, associate dean at Normandale Community College (Normandale), who hopes to change that. Ainley is part of the continuing education and workforce development department at Normandale and oversees integrative and holistic continuing health education programs.

While Normandale is well known as an affordable two-year college for transferable credits and two-year degrees, its Integrative Health Education Center also offers the Midwest's largest selection of classes, workshops, certificate training and special events.

“We offer introductory to intermediate classes to bring a variety of health modalities to the public as well as healthcare givers,” says Ainley. Integrative and complementary health approaches are gaining better recognition, awareness and credibility through research and data. “It’s a perfect opportunity for individuals and healthcare practitioners to learn, integrate and practice integrative health concepts,” Ainley explains.

Part of the success of the holistic programs and classes being offered is due to the growing awareness of the public on the importance of individual ownership of one’s health. Many are seeking ways to alleviate pain, reduce the effects of stress and calm the mind, and they’re learning effective techniques through programs such as tai chi, qigong, meditation and other holistic modalities that can potentially help with a variety of health challenges and overall well-being.

Providing skills at the forefront of health care and focusing on health outcomes rather than healthcare services are driving the need for classes to address this growing trend. “Our mission is to support individuals and our workforce with the knowledge and skills to thrive in their jobs and as a person. Staying current with the changing healthcare landscape is critical. Understanding how to care for people and improve health in innovative and safe ways is a key benefit of learning holistic therapies,” says Ainley.

Even though Normandale is part of a large academic institution within a state agency, they are able to respond to the needs of the community with just-in-time, relevant learning that people can use right away. For example, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) came into being in 2010, much focus was targeted to improving the healthcare system, including quality improvement goals, care delivery changes and a patient-centered approach. But to the workforce, this meant increased patient care demands, possibly greater workloads and more care documentation along with complicated new tools and technology. Normandale has made the latter easier, thanks to a new national training program that's being offered online for free (

A new and upcoming area of growth is in the health information technology (Health IT) space, which includes supporting the move to electronic health records versus paper records. Normandale is recognized as a national leader in Health IT training, leading the state through the initial American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funded Health IT workforce training initiatives, which began in 2010, and established the Minnesota Health Information Technology (MNHIT) program.

“In order to improve quality outcomes in health care, we must have the information, knowledge and data,” explains Ainley. “Having people trained to effectively understand, use and conceptualize the technology systems is so needed right now. This is why the government has funded these no-cost training grants.”

At present, students who work in health care can participate in no-cost Health IT training in areas such as healthcare data analytics and value-based care and population health management. Trainings are short (8 to 11 hours for each course) and offered online. CEUs and CMEs are also available. For more than 20 years, Normandale has offered holistic and complementary courses, being one of the first in the Twin Cities to do so. Ainley says the courses reflect a rich and diverse offering which appeals to their wide spectrum of students: traditional, non-traditional and adult learners.

Normandale Community College is located at 9700 France Ave. S., Bloomington. For more information, call 952-358-8200 or visit

Jackie Flaherty is the publisher of Natural Awakenings Twin Cities, part of the national Natural Awakenings franchise publishing in over 95 cities in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

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