By Stuart J. Pearlman, TSB Staff
Students at the three McKinney High Schools are constantly reminded that the future holds no certainty for a job. News about unemployment is discussed in the media constantly and they already have a sense for job scarcity in the summer when they are looking for a job.
McKinney ISD is acutely aware of the employment challenges waiting for these kids. The district takes the situation very seriously and, to that end, has a Career & Technical Education department dedicated to preparing and giving our kids an education that goes far beyond Math, Science and English.
Tamy Smalskas is the director of career and technical education and special projects at MISD and it is her job to develop and execute a vision of early “career-pathing” for McKinney kids. One of these paths is Health Sciences, and MISD definitely has a plan in place. That plan includes a semester of internship at local partner facilities and businesses. In fact, the newest hospital in the area, Baylor Medical Center at McKinney, has already agreed to participate. In January, 40 MISD students will be working and learning in a variety of situations on the premises at Baylor.
This year there are almost 90 students studying in one of the three Heath Sciences career paths; Certified Nurses Aide (CNA), Pharmacy Technician, and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). The base MISD campus for all course work is at McKinney North High School but students from McKinney High and McKinney Boyd also participate.
“Kids don’t have to transfer to North to participate,” said Smalskas, “Most of these kids are at a level where they already have their driver’s license and it’s a requirement that they have their own transportation to get to the different facilities.”
During the fall semester, students spend all of their time on campus. Before they can participate in any clinical rotation however, there is a price to pay, both financially and physically. Contracts and agreements must be signed. They must be finger-printed for security purposes, have all their vaccinations up to date, including a Tuberculosis skin test, submit to random drug testing, make sure their CPR certification is current, and they must purchase their own stethoscope and, in the case of EMT, purchase trauma sheers.
“We go through a pretty intensive ‘sign your life away’ night with our students and their parents,” said Smalskas.
MISD Health Sciences Career Paths
Certified Nurse Aide
As a CNA, students can start a career in nursing at the basic level. They can work with residents in nursing homes or even at a hospital or doctor’s office monitoring vital signs and providing basic patient care. The program is offered beginning junior year and is a great introduction to the medical profession. At the conclusion of the first semester, students test for a CNA license.
MISD encourages CNA during the junior year so the kids get the basic hands-on patient care. “It just makes them more well-rounded,” said McKinney North Associate Principal of Curriculum and Instruction Jae Gaskill. “They know how to check vitals, they know how to give basic bedside care and they’ve already had some learning on anatomy. It just makes them a more successful EMT or Pharmacy Tech student.”
McKinney North Principal Jimmy Spann is very proud of the program at North. “One hundred percent of our kids have passed their CNA test,” said Spann. “I would say easily over 200 students since we started the program.”
Spann and Gaskill say the Health Sciences curriculum has been offered at North for quite some time. “We expanded the program for EMT and Pharmacy Tech three years ago, but CNA certification, has probably been around for ten years,” said Gaskill.
Pharmacy Technicians study medications to treat patients with pharmalogical interventions. Pharmacy Techs can work in retail, family compounding pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies. If they choose to continue their studies they can become pharmacists. An added benefit of the MISD program is that during this course work, students test to become IV certified.
“One of the reasons they are excited and I’m excited for them to go to the Pharmacy at Baylor of McKinney is we go through a whole IV certification component in this class where they have the option to become IV certified,” said Laurel Ranallo, who teaches Pharmacy Class and CNA at North. “Once they are IV certified that gives them the opportunity to work in a hospital setting as opposed to just a retail pharmacy. That’s an additional cost for them but it’s a lot less expensive to do through us.”
Emergency Medical Technician
As an EMT, students learn to treat patients in life threatening situations. The MISD program is partnered with Collin College and students receive nine hours of dual credit. EMT students are trained in medical and trauma emergencies and vehicle extractions.
Jacki Apligian teaches Health Science Technology at North and is also Associate Faculty, EMS Education in the Collin College Health Science Department. “We have eleven students in EMT,” she said. “They will have two 12-hour shifts in the emergency department at any of the area hospitals, with Baylor as an option. They will then have one 24-hour fire department rotation with McKinney Fire or another area fire department.”
“One of the reasons students start with the CNA program is it gives them experience touching people,” said Apligian. “If they are at a car accident they will be touching head to toe to find out where the injuries are so with the CNA experience they have gotten over that boundary of that diagnostic touch.”
A Campus Visit
The day I visited McKinney North happened to be “Scrub Tuesday,” which certainly helps identify who the Health Sciences students are on campus. I had the opportunity to chat with some of the Pharmacy Tech students.
Although this was a Pharmacy class, very few of the kids were in there because they aspire to be pharmacists. Most started taking courses as sophomores to follow this medical career path.
“In medical school you have to learn the drugs,” said senior Maikha Toutche, who hopes to attend Baylor University. “Also, I want a job through college and this can help me pay for school.”
Another senior, Nicole Peterson, does have a particular interest in the Pharmacy route. “I’ve always really liked Chemistry, so I like to learn about how drugs affect the body and how everything works,” she said. “That’s why I veered toward this direction in a career path.”
They are all eager to begin their internships. Due to confines at Baylor only one intern at a time can be allowed in their Pharmacy so MISD has made agreements with other pharmacies all over the area for the Pharmacy Tech students to gain experience.
“There are multiple pharmacies in the area that will allow interns,” said Marcus Bourland, a McKinney North assistant principal. In fact, beside Baylor, students will be interning in McKinney, Anna, Princeton and Allen. This includes all the local hospitals and many of the private pharmacies.
For senior Michaela Hagemann, it doesn’t matter at which pharmacy she works. “You get to see everybody in the healthcare profession, working hands-on-hands in that environment,” she said. “You get to see how the jobs work outside of the classroom.”
The Baylor Experience
The Chief Nurse and Chief Operating Officer of Baylor McKinney is Melissa Winter and she is very excited about hosting the MISD students at the new hospital.
“I am a huge proponent of being a mentor and teaching young kids especially in this profession and the High School is a fabulous place to start,” she said.
The three groups will rotate at the hospital depending on their individual path (CNA, Pharmacy Tech, EMT) and will work two-hour shifts Monday through Thursday. They will participate in a variety of areas including Women’s Services, Emergency, Physical Therapy, Surgery and ICU.
“We’ve provided the school district with a list of probably 32 areas that kids can go in the hospital,” said Winter. “Of course, everybody wants to go to Labor and Delivery because they think that’s the happy place!”
Winter added that MISD students would be wearing black scrubs so they are differentiated in the hallways.
McKinney North Hospital?
It may not really be a hospital but McKinney North’s CNA Lab is a vital part of the preparation to work in a real-life medical environment. Arranged with nine hospital beds, each costing $8-$12,000, this “clinic” affords students the opportunity to “practice” attending to patients. There are even dummies populating the beds.
Among their duties, CNA students learn the art of taking vital signs, bathing, brushing teeth and even shaving “patients.” Schools administrators are often asked to offer themselves up for practice shaves.
Bourland happens to sport a beard and is a very popular mark for the kids. “I’m the easy one so they catch me all the time and say, ‘can we shave you today,’ and I say OK,” he said.
Looking Toward the Future
“The avenue we want this to go for our kids is they get inserted in the health science field,” said Gaskill. “They may start in a volunteer position then maybe an entry level position as they are working through college and maybe even the next step before they graduate college. It’s all about providing them with skills that can help boost their opportunity for employment in the health science field so they learn as they go. The intent is not to get them a CNA certification so they can be a CAN, rather to provide them with the basic skills so they know more than any other person that they will be competing with for jobs in the health science field.”
Gaskill has no doubt the Health Science program would be much larger if funding were available. “If we had the ability to put more kids in classes and have additional teachers, the academy would be huge,” she said. “As it is now there’s an application process and we are limited by the number of kids who can participate.”
At present there is no plan for continuing the MISD Health Science Intern program into the summer. “Year-round schooling is another vision I have,” said Smalskas. “But that does come with an expense and it is not currently worked into our budget.”
“At the end of the semester it’s all about getting the kids licensed so they can go into a profession,” said Smalskas.
CTE Mission Statement and Goals
McKinney ISD’s Career & Technical Education Program (CTE) exists to serve all students by helping them discover their own unique strengths and interests. Our mission is to provide students with business/industry experience. Students are exposed to a unique combination of classroom instruction and placements in technical work environments where they can acquire new information, concepts, techniques and procedures related to their specific career interests.
Career and Technical Education (CTE) must prepare all students to continue to learn in institutions of higher learning, and provide quality training and opportunities for entry-level (or above) employment. McKinney ISD’s Career and Technical programs are committed to providing rigorous instruction that integrates academics in relevant and innovative ways to keep students interested and excited about their educational goals.
McKinney ISD’s CTE program will implement the Achieve Texas initiative which uses federally defined Career Clusters and Pathways as the foundation for arranging instructional programs. Career clusters offer a guidance tool for helping students plan their educational experience based on their career goals. Career pathway models represent a recommended sequence of courses based on a student’s personal interests and career goals, and are a way of reorganizing learning around clusters of study that will prepare students to graduate ready to live and work in a competitive global economy.
The goals of McKinney ISD CTE program are:
• to help students (and their parents) make wise education choices, based on the belief that schools should combine rigorous academics with relevant career education so that students see the “usefulness” of what they are learning,
• for each program area MISD will strive to provide students with as many opportunities as possible to earn college credit through local and/or state articulation agreements and dual credit courses,
• to develop and embrace partnerships with local businesses to provide students with advice and offer opportunities to participate in work-based learning partnerships and job shadowing experiences
• to provide opportunities for students to earn state and national industry standard certifications and licenses. Each program area will provide certification opportunities where appropriate. Program career clusters are formatted for 4-year career paths
• curriculum will be based both on industry accepted standards and best practices,
• students will be instructed in the essential skills of job application, dependability, promptness, initiative, loyalty, honesty, integrity, responsibility, and the ability to work and get along with others
For more information on the MISD CTE program click here.