Magazine article Techniques

The Single Point of Contact: A Health Care School-to-Career Learning Model in Michigan Is Providing Health Internships for High School Students as Well as Addressing the Need for Health Care Workers

Magazine article Techniques

The Single Point of Contact: A Health Care School-to-Career Learning Model in Michigan Is Providing Health Internships for High School Students as Well as Addressing the Need for Health Care Workers

Article excerpt

The shortage of health care workers is a growing, complex workforce issue. In Kent County, Michigan, however, professionals in health care, along with K-12 and postsecondary education institutions providing health care training, have established a partnership to explore the creation of a school-to-career model for the health science pathway. The underlying purpose of this partnership is to address the shortage of workers as well as the complex issues health care systems face in providing opportunities for high school students to explore health careers in their systems under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) confidentiality law.

Postsecondary systems are vested in this project because there is very limited capacity for students in health care career-training programs. Students who had the opportunity to experience internships in the health care field were seen as more likely to be certain that they were suited for this role prior to applying for placement in their colleges or universities.

From this collaboration, a system was created, and a pilot project called the "Single Point of Contact" was initiated in January 2003. Its purpose is to coordinate work-based internships related to health careers for interested high school juniors and seniors in 50 high schools in Kent County, Michigan.

Facilitated by Kent Intermediate School District, all promotions, applications, orientations, placements in primary health care facilities and evaluations are coordinated by 1.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) health career pathway consultants. This process allows projection of opportunities available in the health system, standardization of student participation, and monitoring to ensure a quality experience for students and health care organizations. It also allows for a more comprehensive model to address the health sciences pathway with the school districts in Kent County.

Expanding Opportunities

The project has grown from 19 students to more than 100 students placed in primary health care institutions each year. Partnerships have expanded significantly, with more than 30 organizations working collaboratively to provide placements for our students. Within existing early partnerships, more placement opportunities have developed in areas previously considered non-accessible for high school students, such as pediatrics, neo-natal and emergency room.

School district recognition of this program has also dramatically increased, with new access for students who wish to participate but do not have the classroom time to select the school-to-career option. Guidance counselors have created school-based accountability linkages to allow students to receive volunteer recognition, so that students can be participants outside of the school day in this "Single Point of Entry" process.

While it cannot be proven that there is a direct link to improved academic achievement, it can be stated that students are better able to understand the importance of science and math achievement with their acceptance into a highly competitive health curriculum at the university level and are more highly motivated to achieve in these subjects.

Health care partnerships are vital links for success in this project. Human resource managers of two large hospital systems and directors of pharmacy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, long-term care facilities and others have met monthly to develop the experiences suitable for high school students and to identify needed training to allow student access to patients.

A universally accepted orientation, including online completion of four modules, was created. Standards for test quality were identified and communicated to high school administrators and applicants.

Mentor recruitment, monitoring and evaluation were addressed through manager meetings at the local hospitals with students who had successfully completed an internship, through individual conferences, and through the development of a brochure outlining student preparedness, mentor responsibilities, Kent Intermediate School District's insurance coverage for students and facilitation of the internship. …

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