HCA Healthcare collaborates with Academies of Nashville to support high school students preparing for future healthcare careers

Student in scrubs learns in a skills lab

As HCA Healthcare recently welcomed one of our largest classes of residents and fellows, another group of future healthcare professionals is preparing to launch their careers: high school students participating in the Academies of Nashville (AON). Recognized as one of the nation’s best college and career prep programs, AON gives high school students opportunities to develop new skills and create their own learning experiences, empowering them to make informed career decisions after graduation.

AON is incorporated in Nashville, Tennessee’s 12 metro public high schools. The model supports 35 different career academies designed to help students develop their potential through advanced classes and other early post-secondary opportunities, including early college credit and industry credentials. More than 365 community partners support the academies, including HCA Healthcare.

During the 2021-22 school year, more than 1,480 students enrolled in five academies supported by HCA Healthcare — and for the first time, 15 students were selected for an on-site work-based learning cohort.

“HCA Healthcare has created an endless talent pipeline that our health science programs can continue to replenish. Our hope is that students form a foundational relationship with HCA Healthcare that will continue while the students pursue their educational goals.”

Beth Wilson, College and Career Readiness Coach, John Overton High School  (Nashville, Tennessee)

Transforming how we educate students

AON enables Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) students to learn through the lens of a career or academic theme in a highly personalized learning community. “The Academies of Nashville has changed the way we educate students for life post-high school by offering students college-level material and industry certification that, in turn, will allow students to gain entry-level employment in a high skill, high wage and in-demand job,” explained John Overton High School College and Career Readiness Coach Beth Wilson, CCMA, CET M.Ed.

With the addition of work-based learning last year, “HCA Healthcare is giving MNPS students the clinical experience necessary to make our programs complete allowing health science students to graduate with an industry certification and eight months of working experience,” according to Beth.

To participate in the work-based learning cohort, each candidate was required to follow all of the necessary steps of applying for a job with HCA Healthcare: completing an application, participating in the interview process and passing a background check and drug screen.

Once hired for the school year, work-based learning students gained hands-on experience at TriStar Health clinics, ranging from patient check-in to rooming and insurance verification. They also had an opportunity to participate in patient chart review, shadowed physicians, medical assistants and medical office specialists, and took temperature checks. HCA Healthcare Vice President of Human Resources Sarah Dasal says this year’s students can expect even more from the experiences within the program, which is expanding to include urgent care opportunities as well as a larger cohort — TriStar plans to accommodate 25 students this year.

“The goal is to have those students that are taking the medical certification exam perform vitals as part of their experience,” Sarah shared. Students will also benefit from an education program in their high school classroom that will help bridge the gap on important “soft skills” like conflict management, professionalism and career pathing.

Healthcare runs in the family

Mother hugging her daughter at a graduation ceremony
Tasha Allen, a neonatal occupational therapist at HCA Healthcare affiliate The Children’s Hospital at TriStar Centennial, celebrates her daughter Amani’s high school graduation. Amani participated in a work-based learning program with the Academies of Nashville.

One of the work-based learning students working at TriStar last year was Amani Allen, who hopes to join the healthcare field as a neonatologist or maybe a professional in a hospital setting, but she hasn’t quite decided yet. Healthcare isn’t new to Amani. Her mom, Tasha Allen, is a neonatal occupational therapist at HCA Healthcare affiliate The Children’s Hospital at TriStar Centennial and thinks it’s wonderful that her daughter wants to pursue a healthcare career. “She is a very compassionate and caring person that has the right personality to work in healthcare. She also is ambitious and has great study habits so I hope she will pursue medical school.”

Amani’s interest in healthcare started at age 10 when she accompanied her mom to a NICU event to volunteer. Today, Tasha is a proud parent sharing the news that Amani passed her exam to be a certified medical assistant. “I know it was a very challenging exam, but this collaborative program of gaining hands-on experience and the curriculum in the classroom set her up for success with passing the exam.”

Preparing students for healthcare careers

HCA Healthcare partnered with John Overton High School — where Amani attends school — and its Academy of Health Sciences in 2013. Our involvement with AON dates to 2010, when we teamed up with Hillwood High School. As an AON business partner, HCA Healthcare’s role is to assist, advise and advocate. At Hillwood, the partnership has included the construction of a recycled greenhouse and outdoor learning space on Hillwood’s campus, hosting annual career fairs and sponsoring the academy’s participation in national competitions. A $100,000 grant from the HCA Healthcare Foundation in 2013 launched construction on Hillwood’s HCA Healthcare/TriStar Health Science Lab, providing a relevant on-site learning environment that equips students for emergency medical responder and certified clinical medical assistance certifications.

In the AON model, general education is taught through the lens of each academy, with business and community partners providing authentic experiential learning experiences at every level.

  • 9th grade: students join the Freshman Academy and attend a career exploration fair and at least one college visit
  • 10th grade: students attend an industry-related field trip aligned with their academy
  • 11th grade: students complete a job shadow experience where they observe professionals in a career area related to their academy
  • 12th grade: students may participate in a senior capstone, where they complete research related to their academy or undertake internships or work-based learning

The work-based learning program provides students with an opportunity to attend their high school classes in the morning and then work a part-time job in their area of interest in the afternoon, where they supplement their learning, gaining hands-on experiences and an opportunity to earn wages.

One of HCA Healthcare’s work-based learning goals is to hire students into positions before graduation. The success of last year’s work-based learning program resulted in just that — five students were hired by HCA Healthcare. We are proud to welcome each of our new colleagues to HCA Healthcare and wish them all the best as they pursue their healthcare careers.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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