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Placing students at the front of the line through transformed learning

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When Althania Jaimez ninth grade student walks into a specialty room at the Harlingen School of Health Professions, she doesn’t view the manikin that she trains on as just a simulator laying on a bed, but as a patient that requires special care.

“I treat this manikin like a real patient,” says Jaimez. “She cries when she’s in pain and she breathes. You could even take their blood pressure. This is a great way to get hands on experience. In a few weeks or so, once we finish studying the different body systems we’ll be able to use sterile tools to operate on it.”

Equipped with five specialty rooms – pharmacy, surgical, patient care, dental, and sports medicine, the rooms facilitate real-life scenarios in a controlled environment, such as day-to-day operations as well as emergency situations.

The objective is for students to become desensitized to a medical environment, and for them to learn the proper operation and placement of equipment in order to ensure that all gear is easily accessible in case of emergency. Students also learn how to perform medical procedures, while always remembering to take into account the holistic component of patient care.

“Even here, all of our patients (manikins) have charts and background stories,” said Tina Garza Principal at HSHP. “They all have experiences that have impacted them positively or negatively in regards to the medical field. So students have to take that into account. What we want our students to learn is how to approach patients because we need to make sure that their blood pressure and anxiety level doesn’t go up while we are trying to treat or diagnose them.”

Along with the hands on experience that students receive in the specialty rooms, they also have the opportunity to attend lectures in which they hear first-hand explanations from doctors, pharmacists, neurosurgeons, and other members of the medical community.

“Through the lecture series, we’ve been able to see neurosurgery,” said Brittany Garza eighth grade student. “We got to see the brain being opened and the doctors working on it. Since I want to become a neurosurgeon, I found that extremely awesome. Also, these lectures help us understand the field to a greater extent. This is beneficial because at first you may really have your heart set on a certain field but you may later realize that the field isn’t for you.”

Before the students can enter into the specialty rooms, the foundation is laid in the classroom through Project Based Learning (PBL) during their eighth grade year.

Matthew Garza eighth grade student states that this learning format teaches students to collaborate and work to find information as a team, which is something that they will have to know how to do in college and later in their careers.

Each classroom is set up to promote an environment where students can communicate, collaborate, create, and develop their critical thinking skills. Eighth grade student Aaron Castillo describes it as a beehive of sorts.

“Our desks are set up in groups and there’s a table in the back, which is set up for workshops with our teacher,” said Castillo. “I feel like it’s a beehive in a sense. We are all the little worker bees creating a product and our teacher would be the queen bee. We have little cards that we can use if we need help. They read, ‘SOS,’ so when we feel as if we’re a person lost on an island we can use those to alert our teacher. Then he or she will come over and helps us get through whatever hurdle we’re trying to pass.”

Through transformed instruction, students at HSHP have the opportunity to explore different aspects of their chosen field and are given experiences that will place them at the front of the line.

“I lived in El Paso Texas for five years before coming to Harlingen; this is my first year here,” said ninth grade student Davian Ortega. “My parents, knowing that I want to become a family physician, told me about HSHP before moving. I applied and was accepted. I feel that this school is really giving me a head start in the career of my choice.”

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