In honor of our 2015 Annual Report, which focuses on the various components of healthy communities, we wanted to highlight the work of a past grant recipient that is fostering healthy communities. The Gateway to Health Careers project coordinated by the Coalition of Health Services was an easy choice. The project received $125,000 in funding from two Amarillo Area Foundation supporting organizations and cultivates the health of 13 rural communities by providing health science education for its young people. The goal is to retain local talent for the healthcare workforce in rural communities, while also providing quality healthcare for local residents.
Across the Panhandle instructors available to teach more nursing students are lacking, especially instructors that are able to facilitate instruction in rural communities. A lack of available equipment for training and a lack of facility space for students are also problems prohibiting accessible healthcare across the Panhandle.
As Canadian High School Principal, Rick Berry puts it, “We have a definite need in our community for healthcare workers, as we have a hospital and two elder care facilities that all struggle to find qualified employees.”
The Gateway to Health Careers project directly addresses the healthcare needs of the Panhandle by increasing the number of area high school campuses offering health science programs which expands the healthcare workforce in rural communities.
How it Works
Lessons are recorded live in an Amarillo Area Center for Advanced Learning (AACAL) classroom each day, with students from across the Panhandle enrolled in an online course where they complete activities and tests and participate in lesson discussions. What they learn online and through the recorded videos is then supplemented by clinical, hands-on training in the mobile clinic simulation classroom that visits each community.
The Gateways project initially aimed to recruit 135 students in five rural high schools by September 30, 2015. The project started its first year with 243 students in five schools.
Providing Paths for Students
The Gateway to Health Careers project not only addresses longstanding healthcare issues in an innovative way, it provides tangible paths to success for its students. Through either an envisioned career in the medical field or stackable credentials leading to living wage employment.
For Dimmit High School student Brandon Quiroz the Gateway to Health Careers project provided him with a new vision for his future. “Before taking this class I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Now, I have decided I want to become a physical therapist and help those in need of rehabilitation.”
Students participating in the CAN and EMT courses at their campuses will also qualify for dual credit, creating an opportunity for Amarillo College, Frank Phillips College, and Clarendon College to expand the number of credits awarded while giving students a head start on credits or certificates earned toward postsecondary education.
As one Dimmit parent shares, aside from the great things the Gateway to Health Careers project is doing for our local healthcare industry and small communities, it is also providing our Panhandle students with critical thinking skills that ensure they are college ready.
Parent, Jackie Odom, states: “This course provided my daughter with a lifetime of knowledge that she will use in all phases of her life. She learned how to study and use critical thinking skills that will allow her to be a successful postsecondary student. “
Providing Stability for Our Communities
Both Canadian High School Principal, Richard Berry, and Bovina High School Principal, Steve Arias, both share similar sentiments about the hope the Gateway project brings to their communities.
“It is always a better option to have employees who are from the community as opposed to bringing in employees. ‘Homegrown’ employees tend to be more stable and are already entrenched into the community, resulting in less turnover and greater commitment. So the Gateway program is good for our community, good for our healthcare facilities, and good for our students,” says Berry.
Correspondingly Arias states, “We are confident that this program will benefit both schools and communities in developing future healthcare professionals if given the opportunity to continue.”
Plans for Expansion
And continue they will – in the 2016-2017 school year the Gateway project is scheduled to expand to Perryton, Friona, Spearman, Wellington, Gruver, Childress, Shamrock, and Wheeler.
By September 2018, the project hopes to recruit 620 students in 15 rural high schools and by September 2019 they hope to certify at least 560 students.
They are well on their way to reaching those goals and we could not be more proud of the work they are doing!
Information to Donate
To donate or learn more about the Gateway to Health Careers project as it expands to communities near you please visit https://sites.google.com/site/gatewaytohealthcareers/