BY: CLAIRE BRISSON, DIRECTOR OF CTE
Learning by doing, in engaging, real-world context—from passionate teachers who have actual work experience in the field—has always been at the heart of the best career and technical education (CTE) programs. Combine that with the fact that the most powerful learning experiences often result from partnerships, both within our educational system and outside of it. In Chippewa Valley Schools, we’re proud that you will find a well-established, exemplary model of both.
What is the Medical Academy? In short, it is a 2-year, state-approved, CTE program of study for 11th & 12th grade students interested in a career in healthcare. But that’s just the beginning of the story. Medical Academy combines stellar classroom preparation in health science, with actual work experience in one of our two partner hospitals, and includes English required for graduation that makes intentional, strong connections to the curriculum, themes, ethics and issues related to healthcare, all while serving up rigorous, college prep English. In 12th grade, the English is online, further developing skills in the use of technology, time management, research, writing, discussion boards, and personal accountability. One of our alumni, Jessica Andrews wrote, “Medical Academy English prepared me immensely for a 400-level college writing/intensive capstone class!” In addition to 1 ½ credits in Medical Careers and 2 English credits, students also earn 1 ½ elective science credits in “Anatomy in Health and Disease” for the science that is naturally embedded in the program.
Even with the best teachers, curriculum, software, technology and tools, the school environment can only go so far in replicating real-world application and challenges that are faced by professionals every day in their work. That is where our hospital partners—Henry Ford Macomb Hospital and McLaren Macomb Hospital—contribute immensely to our success. Second year students spend 6-8 hours per week working alongside hospital staff. Students complete several one-month rotations in various departments where they gain hands-on, patient care, and other experiences. Students feed, bathe, take vital signs, transport and comfort patients, observe, and occasionally assist in procedures. They’ve been involved in the joy of birth, the process of healing, the challenges of recovery, and even the heart-breaking sorrow of death. The learning outcomes go far beyond anything that can be measured on a standardized test. This extraordinary opportunity allows students to hone their communication and employability skills while they interface with hospital staff and patients. Equally important, these rotations allow students to form professional relationships with staff who become influential mentors that help guide students in a career choice that meets their interests and abilities. This clear career focus at the time of graduation improves both college and career readiness, and the college completion rates of our students.
Build it and they will come: The high academic standards of the Medical Academy prepare our students for a successful transition into post-secondary institutions. Our students perform well on the State Health Science assessment; most, if not all enter a post-secondary institution upon graduation. As local colleges/universities have come to know the readiness level that our graduates possess for success in higher education, students have experienced added benefits as evidenced by the number direct admissions offers. On average, approximately 20% of our students are offered one or more direct admissions into their program of study in college; frequently into nursing programs, but occasionally physician and physician assistant programs too, as well as others. (This means they have a guaranteed spot, pending continued academic success.) We often hear back from our graduates, and that is for us the most powerful validation of success. Here are just a couple examples:
“I could go on and on about the med academy! The emphasis on core sciences and the inner workings of the body let me go into college with a huge foundation to base my learning on. The online class was structured almost exactly like my university online courses, so I felt very prepared. I have hundreds of hours of hospital experience, which I have used on my résumé for years. The medical vocabulary root words helped me in every class I have taken because it allowed me to break down terms I didn’t understand into their root meanings.”
J. Rivard, Graduate of MSU School of Kinesiology
“The Academy helped prepare me for the responsibilities that accompany university life. Because of the medical program, I learned how to use Blackboard, and at Wayne State, almost everything is done on Blackboard. I feel free to explore and am not at all afraid of it like many other students are. As for the assignments, they challenged us in ways that no other class had. It forced us to really think, and expand upon those thoughts. But perhaps the most profoundly influential aspect of the medical academy was the fact that it was a medical academy- we were literally learning about medicine. It was like a two-year introduction to college. It really showed us what books could not. It showed us what was real. It allowed experience to teach us. Overall, a fantastic experience that strongly influenced my intended career path.”
S. Shoemaker, Graduate, Wayne State University
“In the long run, Medical Academy can help any student looking into a medical career, whether it be a home care giver, a nurse or a physician. When I took my pre-nursing courses at OU, I found that a lot of the material was a review of the things we learned throughout the two years of the Med program, giving me a one-up compared to others who didn’t have such extensive teaching. As far as Med English 12, it really gave me a work ethic that was absent from my previous years of high school. You really had to be determined to get your work done, and done well, to be submitted online before the due date. Overall, the Medical Academy influenced my enthusiasm for helping others in their time of need. The in-hospital experience for high school students allows them to explore the different healthcare fields, and really see what they do and don’t like; then, when it comes to college, there is a clear path to follow to achieve their desired career.”
S. Deratany, Graduate, Oakland University School of Nursing
The power of partnerships is synergy; that together we produce a total effect greater than what we can do individually. That is the legacy of the Chippewa Valley Schools Medical Academy!