The Richardson ISD Academy prepares students for careers in the healthcare sector
Jasiah Sims is taking a Pharmaceutical Technician Course at Richardson ISD’s Healthcare Careers Academy. (Courtesy Richardson ISD)
As a senior at Richardson ISD’s Healthcare Careers Academy, Nathan Grossman helped save the life of a patient during a clinical rotation in the intensive care unit at the Methodist Richardson Medical Center.
After a nurse told him to put pressure on a patient who was bleeding from the carotid artery, Grossman said he remembered shaking even though everything seemed to be in slow motion. He remembered how the other nurses and doctors in the intensive care unit had worked together to save the patient.
“It got me [to] realize how beautiful the art of saving a life is, ”he said. “It was just so eye-opening. I realized that I love intensive care. “
Grossman is now studying nursing at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, but credits his time on RISD’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses at JJ Pearce High School cementing his desire to become a healthcare professional.
The nearly 1,100 students expected to attend RISD’s Healthcare Careers Academy this fall will take dual-credit courses from grades 9 through 12 to benefit from the district’s partnership with Dallas College, CTE Executive Director, Earn up to 16 hours of college credits, said Sari S. McCoy. All students who complete the four-year program receive a Patient Care Technician Level 1 award, she said. You can also earn five more certifications and awards.
“Our desire is to equip students with so many tools and so much knowledge and technical skills that they can find employment right away,” said McCoy. “If you go to a two-year college or a four-year university or just start your career straight away and stay there for a while, you are well prepared.”
Provide a way
RISD students can take medical terminology, the Level 1 CTE course, at Parkhill Junior High and Westwood Junior High. Those interested in learning more about medicine and related professions can attend the Healthcare Careers Academy at one of the district’s four high schools from year nine.
Ninth and tenth grade students take core courses and prerequisites on their home campus, while eleventh and twelfth grades split their time between visiting on campus and teaching at the Methodist Richardson Campus for Continuing Care, a specialized hospital with limited services. McCoy said they are also getting hands-on experience at Methodist Richardson, a full-service hospital near President George Bush’s Turnpike.
Methodist Richardson’s student education is also beneficial for the hospital, said President Ken Hutchenrider. Some of the students who went through the program were subsequently hired as employees, he added.
“We want to make sure that the students get the very best medical care,” said Hutchenrider. “I think everything we can do to bring our native talent back is so important.”
After high school, local students don’t have to travel far to continue their healthcare education. In addition to the offerings of Dallas College and Collin College, students can also study nursing on the campus of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Richardson. Another option will be West Coast University, which plans to offer a nursing program on its Richardson campus in August.
According to Associate Dean Tonya Sawyer-McGee, interest in the Chicago School’s nursing program has increased since it started last year, particularly among Richardson students.
“[Our Richardson campus] is a great central location for people who live in this area, ”she said.
While McCoy said some RISD graduates can move into healthcare careers straight out of high school as patient technicians, there are also many who attend nursing school or enroll in university medicine classes. The district is also talking to Dallas College about introducing student pathways within the health academy, McCoy added.
After graduating from Richardson High this spring, Salma Moussaid plans to attend Texas Woman’s University to study nursing. While she said the practical experience she gained through the academy program was “terrifying” at first, it ultimately reinforced her desire to become a pediatric nurse.
“The [academy] had a lot of courses to really prepare you, ”said Moussaid. “It was definitely worth it and was very helpful.”
According to McDermott Fellow Yilong Peng, who graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas in May, the pursuit of a career in healthcare is often sparked by an early love of science.
Sometimes that love develops, as McDermott Fellow Patrick Nnoromele learned as a high school student in Kentucky when his father was diagnosed with early-onset dementia.
“During my college career, I’ve focused on pursuing both research and clinical research opportunities,” said Nnoromele, an aspiring neuroscientist at UT Dallas. “And I found out that I love medicine.”
Need for nursing staff
The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted some of the learning opportunities for students at RISD, according to Hutchenrider, but has also worsened the pipeline of workers entering the healthcare sector. Some people decided to move away from direct patient care and nursing after working during the pandemic, he said.
“By exposing people to health care [through] Programs that we have set up with [local school districts], we believe that people will have a much stronger idea of what health care is, ”said Hutchenrider. “We’ll be able to work this through, but there will be a temporary slump.”
Nnoromele said the realities of the pandemic had cemented his desire to help the people. As a certified emergency physician, he worked as a COVID-19 vaccinee for the Dallas Medical Reserve Corps at UT Dallas. Nnoromele said he would see people’s faces light up once they got the vaccine.
Sawyer-McGee said the pandemic caused some existing nurses to suffer from burnout or contract COVID-19 themselves. Texas has the second largest long-term care shortage in the country, ranking 51st nationwide for access to health care and affordability, according to a June 9 statement from more than a dozen Texas care groups.
“Unfortunately, for most of my career we have had a nursing shortage,” said Sawyer-McGee, who is also a nurse. “We need schools that really get involved in training the future nurses we might have.”
Britt Berrett, director of the undergraduate health management program at UT Dallas’s Naveen Jindal School of Management, estimates that COVID-19 has delayed the pipeline of future health care workers by 15 to 18 months.
But this gap can be bridged, said Berrett, who has already seen an upswing in the training of nursing students in hospitals and clinics.
“[The pandemic] actually raised awareness of the importance of caregivers, ”he said. “I work with students who want to do good. … I think this is a catalyst for new entry into the health sector. ”