Worcester Tech Invests In Health Care Professions

SNOW HILL — A focus on crafting healthcare providers out of local students has Worcester Technical High School (WTHS) tripling the number of health profession pathways offered this semester.

“We need healthcare providers on the shore,” said Dr. Penny Makuchal, Nursing and Health Professions Instructor.

For decades, WTHS has offered a popular nursing pathway of study. Following that program, students, under the eye of a Registered Nurse (R.N.) attempt to earn a Certified Nursing Assistant (C.N.A.) license. That program will not be changed, said Makuchal.

Instead, the Academy of Health Professions at WTHS has grown to include both a Pharmacy Technician and Dental Assistant options in addition to nursing. Like nursing, the two new pathways will follow a similar four-semester schedule, with the first half of that time spent in a shared class with the other paths learning the basics of health care.

“Students take a structure and function course,” said Makuchal.

During their first and second semesters at the academy, students learn about field-spanning healthcare information like ethics, medical terminology, infection control, and types of health care agencies, among other things. After getting a handle on the basics the group splits to follow their desired road.

“The third semester they branch off into the pathway of their choice,” Makuchal said.

The fourth and final semester of the academy is then spent doing clinical work to give students on-the-job training in their field. While dental and pharmacy students will need to put in clinic time just like nursing, Makuchal wasn’t sure where in Worcester the new paths will volunteer. For traditional nursing students, whom she overseas, clinic hours are served at Berlin and Snow Hill Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers as they have been for many years.

Already well established, Makuchal acknowledged that the nursing pathway was still popular this year but that there was plenty of attention from students towards dental and pharmacy as well.

“We have so many students interested in pharm tech,” she said.

The expanded Health Academy has been well received overall, already completely full though the semester that just began in January.

“We’re maxed out for this year,” said Makuchal.

Makuchal is optimistic about the Health Academy and how it may bring more, better trained health care providers into Worcester. She also underlined how important the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) was in funding the expansion into multiple paths. According to Makuchal, the MSDE is “always trying to offer more” and is committed to providing diverse academic options for students to help on the way to college and careers.

The Health Academy will be part of that, said Makuchal. She explained that completing the Health Academy with good grades will make students eligible for “articulation credits” through Wor-Wic Community College. They may also qualify for transcripted credit through Stevenson University.

“Wor-Wic has been a wonderful partner,” Makuchal said.

Beyond college, the Health Academy is meant to lay the foundations for a future career. All three paths end in certification and are meant to impart the skills that will carry over into a lifetime of health care services, if a student decides to pursue such a vocation.

While Makuchal was ecstatic about the recent expansion of pathways, she admitted that the goal is to have as many as possible, to offer students the widest range of choices. Like everything else in the school system, she said, the number of training fields is tied to the budget. It’s unlikely the Health Academy will add new branches anytime soon, though Makuchal said “the hope is there” that more will become available eventually.

Those interested in the Academy of Healthcare Professions should call 410-632-5050.

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