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Nation's First Nursing Academy


Andrew Hill Students in nursing class

The staff of the Medical Magnet Program at San Jose, California's Andrew Hill High School saw not only a need but also a trend. Their students were excelling in their newly created Certified Nursing Assistant Program and everywhere around them they were hearing about the nursing shortage. So they put two and two together, applied for grants, solicited assistance from Johnson & Johnson and established the nation's first Nursing Academy.

The Medical Magnet Program offers opportunities for student involvement in the health professions by giving them enriching experiences to explore various health careers. Founded in 1989 with 40 students, today the ethnically diverse Program has an enrollment of 600 students. This program offers six different career paths to students interested in health careers. The Medical Magnet Program's mission focuses on minority and underrepresented students and envisions that all students will graduate High School while completing admission requirements for post-secondary schooling.

The idea of the Nursing Academy was borne out of the previous success of the summer Certified Nursing Assistant Program. Marilyn Bliss, Coordinator of the Medical Magnet Program, was instrumental in establishing both the CNA Program and the Nursing Academy. Ms. Bliss applied to the California Endowment for a $25,000 planning grant. This grant afforded Bliss to hire a nursing instructor, Chantal Chatman, to create the curriculum, recruit students and develop the necessary skill levels. Ms. Chatman explains, "This program encourages the student to choose a career not just to provide a service, but to be part of a career that makes a difference."

The Nursing Academy, a bridge to employment program sponsored by Johnson & Johnson through a $90,000 grant, began in August 2002 as a 3-year program offered to 30 sophomores. The students have the opportunity to enroll in Elements of Nursing classes, take health career field trips and listen to guest speakers who focus on nursing topics and concerns. Since the Nursing Academy is based on a college curriculum and the students study from college level books, the students earn college credit through this program. According to Bliss, "To see my students, who live in an under-served community and are socioeconomically in need, empowered by finding a way to break through the cycle of poverty, is all the reward I need. These students learn the benefits of a health career that can take them places they never dreamed, learn the importance of higher education and learn to navigate through the college system."

Another program still in development pending a grant from the California Endowment is The Nursing Camp. This program is an intense 5-day summer program offered to primarily underrepresented minority students during the summer in three one-week sessions. The Nursing Camp will give students an opportunity to explore nursing as a career by job shadowing with registered nurses from the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. Students will receive information about nursing career ladders, education necessary for achievement at each step and future labor market information. As students shadow RN's they will observe their responsibilities, provide direct service, tour key departments and dress in scrubs with volunteer ID's. They will rotate among registered nurses to see different units and care and have the opportunity to discuss nursing careers with several RNs. Included in their day will be an educational session for learning nursing tasks, such as correct use of a Hoyer lift, taking vital signs and other nursing careers beyond the hospital. Lorinda Gomes, CNCC member, has been influential in creating the Nursing Camp. "I have seen the way students blossom after they have had hands-on experiences. These students will have the opportunity to build their vision and confidence by exposing them to real life scenarios."

It is educators with vision and innovative ideas that make the difference. The students at Andrew Hill High School are now exposed to a nursing career and all the opportunities a nursing career can afford. They have been given the chance to experience, first hand, how they can make a difference in the lives of others.

Release Date: March 18, 2003

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