Advancing Your Career | Industry News

Healthcare High School: The Latest Attempt to Add Workers

  • A $250 million initiative from Bloomberg Philanthropies will help establish or fund healthcare high schools throughout the United States in an effort to address the industry’s workforce shortage.
  • The institutions give students the option of moving straight into the workforce after graduation or furthering their education even more.
  • Of the 10 locations selected, only two are in rural areas.

By Kari Williams

Nursing CE Central

May 13, 2024
Simmons University

Students throughout the U.S. will have the opportunity to launch their healthcare careers directly out of high school as part of a $250 million initiative from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The high school-to-workforce pipeline, which spans urban and rural areas, is helping establish 10 specialty high schools in the latest initiative to bolster the healthcare worker shortage. 

“For too long, our education system has failed to prepare students for good jobs in high-growth industries,” Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg L.P. and 108th mayor of New York City, said in a January news release. “By combining classroom learning with hands-on experience, these specialized healthcare high schools will prepare students for careers with opportunities for growth and advancement. America needs more healthcare workers, and we need a stronger, larger middle-class — and this is a way to help accomplish both goals.” 

The Health Resources and Services Administration projects a nursing shortage until 2036, with nonmetro areas seeing a higher shortage of RNs compared to metro areas. Meanwhile, the need for long-term services and support is expected to increase by 42% between 2021 and 2036, and there’s a projected physician shortage of nearly 140,000 in 2036. 

Healthcare high school

Healthcare High School in Alabama

Following legislative approval, the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences (ASHS) is slated to begin its first classes in 2026. Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement that students will benefit from education at the specialty high school, ultimately improving the state’s healthcare workforce.

“The Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences is yet another way our state is leading the nation in innovative education solutions,” Ivey said. “ …  Investing in the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences is an investment in education, our healthcare workforce and the future of Alabama.”

ASHS will be located in Demopolis, Alabama, (a town of about 7,000 people roughly 100 miles west of Montgomery, Alabama) near Whitfield Regional Hospital.

The hospital, according to the ASHS Foundation, will be a “learning lab” for students. 

“While we’ll get to help shape the future of Alabama’s healthcare workforce in our facility, this school also will attract wonderful people who can contribute to our level of care,” Whitfield Regional Hospital CEO Douglas Brewer said. “Having the opportunity to train future healthcare workers is humbling, and we do not discount the level of trust placed in our hospital and our city.” 

 Majd Zayzafoon, MD, PhD, MBA, the founding director of ASHS Strategic Initiatives and Planning, said the school is about more than “bricks and mortar.” 

 “It’s about building a future where healthcare excellence thrives in rural communities all over the State of Alabama,” said Zayzafoon, a professor and assistant dean of the Heersink School of Medicine at UAB. “We’re laying the foundation for a school that will empower students with the skills and passion to transform lives.” 

 Its board of trustees will include an assistant state superintendent who oversees curriculum development, along with leaders from Whitfield Regional Hospital, various state universities, and the Alabama Community College System, among others. 

 The school will be state-funded and can receive “grants, donations, and funds from any other source including, but not limited to, corporations, individuals, and foundations,” according to the recently passed legislation. 

Healthcare high school

Urband and Rural Spread

Though the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences is one of 10 institutions to receive funds from the “first-of-its-kind” Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative, it’s one of only two rural schools in the cohort. The other, in Northeastern Tennessee, sees Ballad Health partner with six sites in Northeast Tennessee Public Schools. 

The U.S.Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) first designated Marengo County, Alabama, where ASHS will be located, a health-professional shortage area (HPSA) for primary care on March 26, 1991. Its HPSA score, which can range from 0 to 26 (and the higher the number, the greater the need) is 19.

Ballad Health is in Johnson City, Tennessee, which spans three counties — Washington, Carter, and Sullivan. All three counties have various HPSA designations, with scores between 16 and 20.

A May 2023 Government Accountability Office report noted that provider availability is chief among healthcare access challenges in rural areas. Between 2013 and 2020, more than 100 hospitals serving rural areas had closed. Rural healthcare systems also have limited services, in some cases due to difficulty with recruiting and retention. 

The urban locations included in the Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative are: 

  • Boston, Massachusetts: Mass General Brigham to partner with Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers (Horace Mann charter schools, Boston Public Schools). 
  • Charlotte, North Carolina: Atrium Health to partner with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. 
  • Dallas, Texas: Baylor Scott & White Health to partner with Uplift Education. 
  • Durham, North Carolina: Duke Health to partner with Durham Public Schools. 
  • Houston, Texas: Memorial Hermann Health System to partner with Aldine Independent School District. 
  • Nashville, Tennessee: HCA Healthcare TriStar, Vanderbilt Health, Ascension, and National HealthCare Corporation to partner with Nurses Middle College. 
  • New York, New York: Northwell Health to partner with New York City Public Schools 
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to partner with Mastery Schools. 

The funds, according to Bloomberg, will cover start-up costs and “healthcare-specific work-based learning costs.” 

Healthcare high school

The Bottom Line

Eight urban and two rural healthcare high schools will receive funding as part of a $250 million initiative from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The schools are expected to help address the nationwide healthcare worker shortage. However, studies show that rural areas have more of an uphill battle when it comes to bringing quality care to residents. 

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