Last of a series
According to the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, the healthcare and bioscience industry is the leading economic generator, employing more than 100,000 in San Antonio.
With growing demand from a booming industry, Alamo Area Academies developed a pilot program, known as the Health Professions Academy, in 2009 to allow local students early college experience and a “direct pathway” into well-paid careers.
According to Troy Kettell, coordinator for Health Professions Academy, the pilot program is the fourth academic venture of the Alamo Area Academies and is aimed at provided local high school juniors and seniors interested in nursing careers early college experience and real-life technical training.
Because the academy is currently considered a pilot program, Kettell explained enrollment availability is limited.
“Right now we have a total of 16 kids who are both seniors and juniors,” he said. “In order for [all of the] students to do their clinical rotations, we must have one instructor for every 10 students so if we exceed 20, I have to bring in more instructors and it becomes an issue of cost effectiveness.”
With the first group of academy students set to graduate in August 2011, Kettell said the academy board will reassess how students will progress with their training and certifications.
“The [academy] wants to see is this first group of students go through program and see how well they do,” he said.
“Because the college is accredited through the Texas Board of Nursing, 85 percent of all of our students that sit for the [License Vocational Nurse] LVN exam must pass. If they don’t pass, the school can lose its accreditation.”
Kettell said although there was at first concern about whether high school students had the maturity level to handle learning difficult curriculum, working in high-stress work environments and passing challenging LVN exams. However, he admits that this year’s first graduating cycle of students has proven themselves as excellent understudies.
“My students over the fall semester were taking 12 semester hours of [both] college and high school,” he said. “These kids that are in this program amaze me with their drive and ability to achieve success.
“Last year was our first year with the internships and all the feedback I got was extremely positive. The [industry partners] were amazed at what these kids could do. Their work ethic and everything far exceeded what the [industry] standard was,” he added.
Kettell said future plans for the academy include not only increase his enrollment size but also eventually have the health professions academy offer programs in other allied health fields in addition to only core nursing classes.
Currently, academy students receive nursing instruction several days a week at the Martin Luther King Campus of St. Philip’s College in addition to attending their prospective high school.
This past summer, students were placed with participating industry partners, including Methodist Healthcare, Christus Santa Rosa hospitals and Morningside Ministries, a local assisted living and retirement community.
Hesitant at first, Vanessa Flores, a senior from Edison High School, said she is now thankful the academy has given her a “head start” to a meaningful career.
“I chose to go into the health industry because one thing that I love to do is help people, and what better way than being a nurse,” she said. “Health careers will always have opportunities and so I will never have to worry about a job.”
For her internship, Flores served as in patient care assistance at Christus Santa Rosa atMedical Center which she describes as a “very positive experience.”
“The internship wasn’t demanding because the faculty was able to work with me to find solutions to any concerns I did have,” she said. “I definitely liked being treated like an adult and not like another teenager. I was also able to better my communication [skills] with the patients and also talk to the faculty about how to get into a [full-time] position there one day.”
Jan Carter, nursing administrator for Morningside Ministries, said she recently hosted three junior interns from the academy.
“We had a really good experience with them,” she said. “I think they were prepared really well not only in the skill set for taking care of the residents but also in dealing with this kind of work environment given how young many of these kids are.
“This was a new and alien environment for them but they seemed very prepared for it,” Carter noted.
During their internships, Carter said the students provided direct patient care to the residents, including assistance with many daily living tasks, such grooming, feedings and bathing.
“We are very big in supporting education because we feel it does nothing but help us out in the long run,” she explained.
“We have many people who do their training here and many of them gravitate back to us because they see the kind of care that we give and they want to be a part of that.”
Olivia Rocha, a senior at Thomas Edison High School, said her experience as an intern at Morningside Ministries helped her grow both personally and professionally.
“This internship taught me responsibility, independence, and I feel that I have matured a lot as a result of this experience,” she said.
“I am very fortunate to have had such an awesome opportunity and I can honestly say that at first it was not something I would have chosen to do but now that I look back on my experience I would not change it for anything,” she added.
Rocha agrees that all of the training and real-life work experience she has gained as a student at the academy has set her up for future success.
“There have been many cases in which high school teachers have said that they can see a big difference between us who enrolled in the academy and other students who did not,” she said. “I feel proud for us who chose to take this big step in a direction that many others our age are too afraid to take. We moved on from having a mindset that life revolves around us to understanding that there is a life beyond high school. We can now walk out into that world and have confidence that we will succeed.”