CHI Health St. Francis and Grand Island Public Schools team up on $5.92 million project to educate future health care workers

The prospect of the 2022-2023 school year is a little more exciting for 456 area high school students as a "school within a school" will become a "school within a hospital."

Grand Island Public Schools (GIPS), in partnership with CHI Health St. Francis, is finalizing plans to transform the 8th floor of the hospital tower into a 20,522 square-foot learning lab of the future. When complete, the Grand Island Senior High (GISH) Academy of Medical Sciences at CHI Health St. Francis, a $5.92 million project, will provide juniors and seniors training and exposure to a variety of health care careers.

"Allowing students to learn on-site at the hospital, in a larger space that’s specifically-designed to compliment our current pathway, will do more than we could ever imagine," says Dr. Tawana Grover, superintendent, GIPS. "Working side-by-side with St. Francis health care professional will provide fun and relevant learning opportunities that will make a huge impact on our students’ futures."

The academy build-out will take an estimated 12 months to complete once funds are raised. It will include two large simulation pathway labs, four additional labs, two classrooms, several smaller break-out rooms and a large learning lab and lobby for gathering.

Students will alternate days of hands-on learning at the hospital with traditional in-classroom days at GISH. While at the hospital, students will simulate bedside care using electronic patient mannequins, work through emergency care protocols in an ambulance, learn how physical therapists assess sports injuries and repair high-tech medical equipment.

"COVID-19 showed the nation how vital skilled medical providers are for the health and safety of any community," says Ed Hannon, president, St. Francis. "The academy, and the opportunity to ‘grow our own,’ is a forward-thinking way for St. Francis to give back to the community which has supported our hospital for 133 years. This partnership with the Grand Island Public Schools will benefit the community well into the future."

Twenty faculty members, collaborating with St. Francis providers and employees, will teach in the new space. Job shadowing and mentoring opportunities at the hospital will also be offered as part of the curriculum.

The free program is open to area high school students interested in the medical field.

Dr. Grover says, "Students get to tap into their interests while increasing attendance and grades. Being outside the traditional high school environment is a big deal, and they take the work seriously."

After graduation, academy students can use their acquired skills for college or to enter the job market. Those who choose not to pursue higher education, roughly 40 percent, will be eligible for several careers including CNAs, EMTs, health care techs and admissions clerks.

Last school year, 104 academy students earned their Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification; many working in in health care during the pandemic.

An instant workforce is a valuable resource, according to Dave Taylor, president, Grand Island Economic Council, as Grand Island’s population is shifting and will soon be home to more residents 75 years and older than children five years and younger.

"Grand Island's population shift will surely effect all segments of the community- business, housing, education, and especially healthcare. The investment in the Academy of Medical Sciences at CHI Health St. Francis is a multi-faceted, long-term economic strategy to develop a highly qualified, empathetic, and engaged workforce. The partnership between CHI Health St. Francis and Grand Island Public Schools enables Grand Island to be one step closer to a budding healthcare hub in Central Nebraska," says Taylor.

Hannon believes time spent at St. Francis will be invaluable in helping students navigate the 250 possible careers in health care.

"Students will discover what it’s really like to work in health care – and what careers they’re most interested in pursuing," says Hannon. "They’ll forge connections with our staff who’ve been in their shoes and are now in their corner."

As to not burden the tax system, the Academy of Medical Sciences at CHI Health St. Francis will be funded through business and private donations. St. Francis intends to lease the space, a $7.2 million value, to the school system for 20 years for a token fee.

"We are thrilled to be able to partner with our friends from the CHI Health St. Francis Foundation to make this dream a reality to our students," says Traci Skalberg, GIPS Foundation.

St. Francis and GIPS began the fundraising process several months ago presenting design schematics to area businesses. In total $5.92 million needs to be raised to start. For more information about the academy or to pledge a gift, contact the St. Francis Foundation at (308) 398-5400file://localhost/tel/13083985400.

The proposed Academy of Medical Sciences at CHI Health St. Francis:

  1. Learning Lab and Lobby
  2. Health Care Simulator Pathway Lab
    The Health Care Lab will feature six patient care room simulations, complete with hospital bed, headwall unit, cabinetry, over-the-bed tables, and a variety of medical mannequins featuring Apollo, a high-fidelity simulator unit. Students will work in groups of three or four to practice their skills, and prepare for the demands of the medical industry. Also part of this lab is a classroom capable of seating 24 students. Students in the health care pathway will complete their Certified Nursing Assistant (CAN) and Medication Aide (MA) certifications, and receive six credit hours of college credit from Central Community College.
  3. Emergency Services Simulator Pathway Lab with Ambulance
    The Emergency Services Lab will feature two full-motion ambulance simulators, and space for students to load medical mannequins onto stretchers, to simulate emergency scenarios. The high-fidelity mannequins used in the pathway are designed to be durable for emergency scenarios, but still provide simulated patient effects. The entire Academy of Medical Sciences will be their classroom as these simulators can be placed anywhere, forcing students to assess the situation, and get the trauma patient to the ambulance. Also part of this lab is a classroom capable of seating 24 students. Students in the emergency services pathway will complete their Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certifications, and receive six credit hours of college credit from Central Community College.
  4. Sports Medicine/Physical Therapy Pathway Lab
    The Sports Medicine Lab will feature six adjustable training/taping tables, space and equipment to perform basic physical therapy techniques, as well as a classroom capable of seating 24 students. Students in this pathway have the opportunity to play a vital role as part of the Grand Island Senior High student trainer team. This team is present at all home sporting events.
  5. Biomedical Lab
    The Biomedical Sciences Lab will feature flexible working spaces to allow for the research-based, project-based curriculum to be delivered to students. This pathway is built around researching real world scenarios, and using the same equipment labs and hospitals are utilizing to find solutions and repair problems. This lab will also contain a classroom to accommodate 24 students, is adjacent to the anatomy and physiology Labs, and will share a storage room.
  6. Physiology & Anatomy Science Lab
  7. Physiology Science Lab
    The Academy of Medical Sciences will have two science labs, with one specializing in anatomy the other in physiology. Each lab will accommodate 25 students.
  8. General Education Classroom 1
  9. General Education Classroom 2
    The Academy of Medical Sciences will also have two general education classrooms, where English, math, social studies and elective courses can be offered to academy students. Each classroom will accommodate 25 students.

Highlights from the 2019-2020 school year:
104 Students earned their Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification
10 Students earned their Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) certification
24 Students participated in January CNA Hiring Fair with 6 business partners represented
60 Students worked to finish CNA and EMR certifications this summer due to shutdown from COVID-19

Grand Island Senior High (GISH) Academy of Medical Sciences at CHI Health St. Francis