HSHP seniors refine healthcare skills through real-world experience


After years of preparation and study, the legacy class of Harlingen School of Health Professions is heading out into the community to show the world what they’re made of through their hands-on practicum courses.

With opportunities in dentistry, orthopedics, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, radiology, emergency, day surgery, and physical therapy, HSHP seniors are receiving authentic learning experiences where they can observe how working professionals carry out their day to day responsibilities.

Katlyn Grant, who is pursuing certification as a medical assistant, recently had the opportunity to experience a birth as well as the postnatal care of mother and child.

“Being a high-school student and watching the whole delivery process unfold in front of you is an amazing experience – one that I would not have thought possible before attending HSHP,” she said. “I wear my scrubs with great pride, especially within the hospital facilities. People want to know if you’re a student and what school you’re from. I tell them I go to HSHP and this is what I’m doing.”

Grant counts herself fortunate to be part of HSHP because when she is out on the field and shares with hospital workers that she is only a senior in high school, she often hears the words, “I wish I had that opportunity when I was your age.”

Students in the program visit their practicum sites several times per week to refine their healthcare skills through job shadowing of patient care in hospitals and clinics all while under the supervision of licensed healthcare professionals.

Matthew Pelache and Justin Vasquez are both in the pharmacy practicum. Their time is split between two hospitals and a retail pharmacy; this has allowed them to grasp fully the multifaceted field of pharmacology.

“I’m so excited that we get to experience pharmacy in two different settings because a pharmacy in a hospital is very different from a retail pharmacy. In a hospital, filling and delivering medications can sometimes turn urgent,” said Pelache. “Occasionally, the label of medication that I am delivering will have a big red sticker that reads ‘STAT’ making me walk a bit faster. I have encountered patients that have just come out of open heart surgery and are still being plugged into their EKG when I arrive with the medication they need.”

Vasquez said that many people don’t realize just how precise a pharmacist must be. Something that is frequently emphasized by his teachers at HSHP and now out on the field is that one measurement can be the difference between life and death for a patient.

“Pharmacy is something that occurs behind the scenes. It’s something you don’t see outright as a patient, so to be able to see what happens in the background is interesting. It’s a lot more tedious than people realize. There are two people who can kill the patient on the spot. That’s the surgeon and the pharmacist.”

Jeniffer Verdines who wants to become a dentist said that nothing gives her more satisfaction than seeing her parents’ faces when she wears her scrubs to school every other day.

“I’m proud of the hard work that I’ve put in these last three years; it’s paying off,” she said. “My parents came to the United States when I was born. It’s been tough. They have been through so much. I am proud to attend HSHP, making my parents proud, and knowing that all their sacrifices are not in vain.”

This long-awaited moment for her and her entire senior class carries with it special meaning. “This is the year that we get to show our skills, and we get to show the community how much we’ve learned,” said Verdines.

To celebrate the start of students’ real-world experience, HSHP held a Practicum Commencement on Oct. 17. Several students had the chance to share their experiences so far working with community partners in the medical field.

“We are celebrating the students of HSHP’s legacy class who are starting their practicum program. We want to thank our great partners in Heroes for Harlingen,” said Superintendent Dr. Art Cavazos. “The medical community has come out in full force to support our Harlingen School of Health Professions by providing our kids authentic learning experiences. This practicum gives students an opportunity to see firsthand in real life situations how their learning and study at HSHP is applied in the field.”

Community partners for HSHP’s practicum include Altas Palmas Animal Clinic, Burke Children’s Dentistry, Harlingen Family Dentistry, Harlingen Medical Center, Muniz Pharmacy, Orthopedic Physical Therapy, Retama Manor, Rio Vista Dentistry, Sabal Dentistry, Sports Ortho Surgeon, Valley Baptist Medical Center, and Valley House Calls.

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