Expert Insight on Health Science High School Curriculum Standardization
Note from Bri: This is a guest post by Neil Leisenring, an intern at Applied Educational Systems. Neil is currently attending George Washington University in Washington, DC and has written a handful of articles for us.
If you teach health science high school courses, you know how precious spare time can be. Because we work with thousands of health science instructors across the United States, we often hear that they don’t have enough time to learn about changes in the healthcare industry and update their curriculum accordingly. Similarly, there is not always time to learn what the latest trends are for teaching content and organizing their classes.
At Applied Educational Systems, we do all we can to help health science instructors spend more time with their students. To that end, we put together a summary of the webinar by the National Consortium for Health Science Education (NCHSE) and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) in April 2016.
By reading this overview, health science teachers can save the time and trouble of watching the hour-long webinar, but still learn important information. I summarized the webinar to cater towards the questions we get from teachers concerning the ever-changing world of health science.
The webinar had three overarching themes:
- Information on institutions and organizations related to health science programs in secondary education
- The coming shortage and demand in healthcare positions
- The need for cross-state health science curriculum standardization
The rest of the review is segmented into those three categories to make it easy to find the information you want to know.
Organizations that Support the Health Science Career Cluster
First, I will start with the organizations that were represented in the webinar. Each presenter shared information about his or her organization and also provided insight on the other topics of the webinar.
The Health Professions Network
Lynn Brooks, Executive Director of the Health Professions Network, spoke at the webinar on behalf of his organization. He first spoke about their role in promoting healthcare occupations that are lesser known, but growing in number and importance. He continually mentioned the volume of opportunities available with positions like:
- Home Health Aide
- Nursing Aide
- Medical Assistant
- Pharmacy Technician
He also emphasized the specific increase to be expected in openings for more specific healthcare careers like:
- Lab Technicians
- Radiological Technicians
- Surgical Technicians
- Physical Therapists
- Occupational Therapists
- Respiratory Therapists
- Speech/Language Pathologists
Lynn then went on to state that the Health Professions Network supports increased standardization across health science curriculum. This is to help create greater similarity between the core competencies acquired by students who go through health science high school programs across the country.
If you have questions about the Health Professions Network, email Lynn at email@example.com.
Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA)
Nancy Allen, Associate Director of Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), spoke about the structure and purpose of her organization. She first discussed HOSA’s main goal to create a “pipeline for healthcare workers,” by starting with students in middle school and sticking with them throughout their secondary, post-secondary, and professional lives, helping them make decisions about their career path along the way. HOSA seeks to support students’ learning experiences while going through the program. HOSA likes to be seen not as an extracurricular, but as a curricular organization.
HOSA has a small body of student representatives and its own board of directors, executive council, and national staff. They have chapters in 49 states, American Samoa, Mexico, Canada, Germany, and Italy. Every year they host an international conference which includes an expo where students speak with representatives from different healthcare careers and post-secondary programs. The conference also includes recognition sessions where students may be awarded scholarships to pursue post-secondary degrees for healthcare careers.
There is also a competitive events program, which features hands-on competitions based on different health occupations that students learned about in their health science courses. The competitions are judged by health professionals from around the country and are all in accordance with at least one of the 11 National Health Science Assessment Standards. HOSA takes the conference and the competitive events program as very meaningful experiences for students to grow their leadership and technical skills.
If you have questions about HOSA, email Nancy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Health Science Assessment Exam from Precision Exams
Edson Barton from Precision Exams spoke about the National Health Science Assessment. Precision Exams produces this assessment for the NCHSE as the exam for certification of completion of a secondary program in health science. The assessment uses “standards that are essential knowledge common across health professions.”
The previously mentioned 11 standards are the blueprint of the exam, and help teachers prepare their students for the assessment. The breadth of the standards also ensures that even with a diversity of content and style in health science programs around the country, the exam should be applicable to all health science students. The exam content is reviewed on an annual basis by subject matter experts to ensure that each item on the exam is up-to-date.
The certificate given for passing the exam validates the skills that are said to come with completing a health science program of study. This is important for students’ resumes and college applications because it gives something concrete, standardized, and nationally-recognized to show for their coursework in the secondary health science programs.
The standards provided by the exam also give students talking points to help them overcome the challenge of articulating their experiences when they need to at the next level (i.e. when they can’t show and need to tell).
Important information for potential exam proctors:
- The exam is taken on a computer browser and has a 90 minute time limit
- IEP options are available on the testing platform, such as nonrandomized questions
- There is a guarantee that students can start testing within 5 minutes of beginning the process
Valuable features for instructors with students taking the exam:
- The system has an automatically created report with feedback on class performance
- Teachers can view class performance by standard, to see what content should be covered more in-depth the following year
- Teachers can compare their students’ average results against others in their state for an overall evaluation of class performance
The NCHSE exam also caters towards students’ needs by striving to make it affordable for all students to take advantage of the benefits that come with taking the exam. They price it at $12 for NCHSE members and $15 for non-members.
Contact Edson Barton with questions about Precision Exams and the National Health Science Assessment at email@example.com.
Advance CTE & The National Career Cluster Framework
Deputy Executive Director of Advance CTE Kate Blosveren spoke about the large role of her organization in health science programs across the country. Advance CTE has managed the National Career Clusters Framework since 2002. Career Clusters are groupings of occupations and industries that CTE programs are advised to use as organizing tools for curriculum design, career counseling/guidance, and program management. Nearly every state’s CTE program uses the Career Cluster Framework in some way. Each career cluster has career pathways underneath them, which are broad areas and not specific, single careers. The pathways for the Health Science Career Cluster are:
- Therapeutic Services
- Health Informatics
- Diagnostic Services
- Support Services
- Biotechnology Research & Development
Each pathway has a wide range of career possibilities they can lead to. If you aggregate the Health Science pathways, they total to over 300 career specialties and counting!
Direct your questions about Advance CTE to Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Growing Demand for Jobs in the Health Science Career Cluster
One topic the presenters discussed is the growing demand for health science jobs in the United States. The current healthcare environment in the United States is one of discrepancy. All of the current and near-future needs are mismatched with the ability to meet those needs. Here are some statistics and examples regarding this demand, that were discussed in the webinar:
- The projected shortage of primary care physicians in the US by 2020 is 46,000
- The projected growth for physicians will be over 14% between now and 2024
- 15% of the nursing workforce is projected to retire within the next 2-3 years
- 18 million Americans have gained access to healthcare through the Affordable Care Act as of March 2015
After looking at that information, the mismatch in the supply and demand in the healthcare landscape becomes clearer. This is why the webinar presenters spent a great deal of time emphasizing the current and coming need for healthcare workers in a range of public health careers like:
- Medical Assistants
- Medical Office Staff
- Physical Therapists
All of the organizations represented at the webinar are making it part of their mutual goal to promote healthcare careers in order to prepare the workforce to meet the demand ahead.
Cross-State Standardization for Health Science High School Curriculum
So how do these organizations plan to better meet the growing demand of jobs in the Health Science career cluster? The basic idea that the speakers discussed is that it would be beneficial to all stakeholders involved (students, teachers, employers, and post-secondary institutions) to establish a greater degree of core standards among health science programs across states. For students, this would be practical for preventing them from falling behind when they move to a different state, which is important given recent spikes in student mobility.
Regarding health science teachers, a curriculum standardization would provide a more concrete basis for their instruction, and would foster greater communication between teachers. They would be able to share and critique instructional strategies with their colleagues across state lines, who would be teaching the same material.
Employers and post-secondary programs would see the same benefits in terms of knowing what to expect from secondary health science program graduates, even when those students are applying from various localities.
Learn More from the National Consortium for Health Science Education
I hope this overview provided useful information about different organizations that support health science high school programs across the U.S. If you would like to view the full webinar from the National Consortium for Health Science Education, watch it below:
About the Author:
Neil Leisenring is a rising Sophomore at George Washington University in Washington, DC. He is currently an intern with the AES Marketing Team.