National Health Science Standards: NCHSE Creates Common Ground for Students Blog Feature
Sarah Layton

By: Sarah Layton on February 16th, 2016

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National Health Science Standards: NCHSE Creates Common Ground for Students

Health Science | National Health Science Assessment | NCHSE | National Health Science Standards

If you teach health science, you know all about the national health science standards (NHSS) developed by the National Consortium for Health Science Education (NCHSE). But do you know what goes into developing those national health science standards? And do you know why they are so important to you and your students? In January 2016, NCHSE held their annual board meeting in San Diego. Our Anne Kuser was there to take it all in as part of the Publishers Coalition.

Here are the take-aways that we think are important to you...

Health Science Career Cluster Programs Are Struggling Against Huge Need for Health Professionals

national health science standards

According to NCHSE, the health professions sector is currently growing the fastest. What is "fastest"? How about 5 million jobs by 2022?! NCHSE calls this increase "overwhelming" and a "crisis" particularly in rural communities. Because of this, student enrollment and the number of offered programs are growing. And this can cause some potential problems in the long run.

The Consortium points out that many students getting into health science career pathways at the post-secondary level lack the knowledge to make an "informed health professions career selection" and to simply meet the educational demands in health professions courses at that level.

Why are they not prepared at the post-secondary level? Those students aren't getting what they need in high school.

Let's take a look at the numbers that NCHSE has provided.

  • Public high schools in the US: 24,500
  • High school students: 24,000,000
  • Students inventoried with an interest in health professions: 30%
  • High schools students in health professions programs in 2014: 910,000
  • Estimated number of students interested in health professions, but not provided the opportunity to study: MILLIONS

NCHSE points out that even if every one of the 24,500 high schools provided health professions as an option, they'd still fall short of the expected need.

And so NCHSE was given the task of developing a pathway for high school students with an interest in health professions to prepare them for the demanding post-secondary health science education. As a result, the national health science standards were born.

National Health Science Standards Help Prepare High School Students for Post-Secondary Studies

And so NCHSE views national health science standards as the key to achieving their top-priority goal of providing high quality health science education. NCHSE Chair, Cindy Le Coq, says, "But most importantly, with the goal of all health science programs providing student with consistent high quality education, the national health science standards were refined and enhanced for clearer communication to both the health science teachers and their students as to what each standard based learning exemplified.

The health science standards were endorsed by the Health Professions Network and supported by the Tri-Council for Nursing and they are the foundation for the health science framework."

national health science standards 2016 NCHSE Meeting: Joan Thompson, Chair Cindy Le Coq, Tara Bell, Clarice Morris

The Health Professions Network (HPN) is, according to their site, a "collaborative group representing the leading allied health professions; organizational members include:

  • Professional associations
  • Educators
  • Accreditors
  • Credentialing and licensing agencies."

The Tri-Council for Nursing consists of four nursing organizations that, according to their site, "represent nurses in practice, nurse executives, and nursing educators.

Note that both organizations reviewing and endorsing these national health science standards represent health science teachers just like you.

We couldn't agree more that establishing standards for health science is a critical part of quality health science education. That's why our first step in developing our health science curriculum, HealthCenter21, starts with the NCHSE's national health science standards. We know these standards are critical for you as a teacher and your students trying to master them.

Using the "Understanding by Design" theory of backwards design, we start with these national health science standards along with key state standards to define what students need to know and be able to do. Then we develop curriculum backwards from there that helps you teach those concepts. Finally, we assess students on mastery of those standards.

And as those national health science standards and state standards change, so does our curriculum--seamlessly. This allows busy, over-scheduled teachers to focus a little less on standards updates and more on students and their learning.

National Health Science Assessment Helps Get High School Students on Common Ground

Taking things to the next level, NCHSE discovered great inconsistencies in students arriving for post-secondary health science education. The problem with that is that post-secondary institutions are, rightfully so, focusing on preparing students for licensure and/or certification.

With that goal in mind for every student, curriculum and assessments leading up to that are very consistent from one school to another. That arrangement can be detrimentally affected by recently graduated high school students entering post-secondary health careers studies.

Little consistency and commonality among high school health science courses and assessments can certainly contribute to "students getting into health science career pathways at the post-secondary level that lack the knowledge to simply meet the educational demands in health professions courses at that level."

This lead NCHSE to develop the National Health Science Assessment. This assessment, based on the national health science standards, is used to "ensure students are prepared for the rigors of post-secondary programs." 

The National Health Science Assessment is taken online and tests students' understanding of NHSS. Students receive a certificate if they successfully complete the assessment. This is a big deal for high school students choosing to apply for health care professions program at a post-secondary school.

Want to learn more about preparing students for the National Health Science Assessment? Click here: How To Prep Students for the NCHSE National Health Science Assessment


About Sarah Layton

Sarah is a contributing author to the AES blog. She is committed to helping instructors and students succeed both in and out of the classroom.