SAISD Planning New Fox Tech Program to Graduate RNs

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The entrance to Fox Tech High School. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

San Antonio Independent School District, Methodist Hospital, and San Antonio College could partner to create a registered nurse track at Fox Tech High School.

San Antonio Independent School District is planning to start a new program by fall 2020 that would graduate high-school students as certified registered nurses, or RNs. This would help to satisfy a steady health care industry need for nurses and a desire for students to graduate with the skills and training to immediately enter high-wage careers, a district official said.

RN is in one of those top high demand, high-wage roles out there, one of the biggest-demanded roles in the next 10 years, so we are looking at using this to create a pathway that could be duplicated across the state,” said Johnny Vahalik, SAISD’s senior executive director of career and technical education.

The proposed program, a P-TECH model, would be a school-within-a-school at Fox Tech High School. It would be the second P-TECH model implemented in SAISD. The first, focusing on cybersecurity at Sam Houston High School, will open in fall 2019.

The P-TECH model is a national, industry-specific educational concept that State lawmakers approved for use in Texas schools in 2017.  The model gives students between four and six years to earn a high-school diploma, associate degree, and industry certifications.

Fox Tech’s proposed model would include a partnership involving SAISD, Metropolitan Methodist Hospital, and San Antonio College. Details of the collaboration are still largely unknown, and the partners plan to take the next year to work out what the eventual model will look like.

Each partner emphasized that the idea would help fill an important need in the health care industry.

“We have nine hospitals in our system and employ throughout our system probably close to 10,000 employees. Close to half of those are nurses,” Metropolitan Methodist Hospital CEO Greg Seiler said. “We need a lot of nurses and we are always looking to hire.”

When SAISD first approached the Alamo Colleges District about what P-TECH models would interest them for future partnerships, nursing was at the top of the list, said Vernell Walker, San Antonio College’s dean of professional and technical education. Engineering was a close second and is still being discussed between the two districts.

The nursing program could open with a maximum of 150 students per class, Vahalik said, but that number could likely change over the planning year because of challenges presented by the rigor of the program. The program is also likely to open with a smaller class of students and then could expand over time, he said.

Vahalik believes SAISD would be the first district in Texas to start a P-TECH model for nursing. Unique challenges have started to crop up, including some age restrictions that limit when a student can start clinical rotations. If a student can’t perform hospital work until he or she is 18, that could delay some classes.

Those are some of the details that will be worked out over the next year, Vahalik and Walker said. Partners plan to visit other P-TECH models to get some insight on best practices.

SAISD is also looking into other models it could implement. Each would focus on a high-wage career, Vahalik said.

“We can’t mess around, and I’m going to get myself in trouble, but I love fashion design. But we can’t be doing fashion design when we have a [high] poverty rate” in the district, Vahalik said. “We have to focus on careers that are going to get kids a job that provide a living wage and grow a career.”

He added that SAISD is exploring any programs that focus on careers included on the Workforce Solutions Alamo Board’s targeted and demand occupations list. The 2017 list focuses on jobs in business and finance, aerospace and advanced manufacturing, health care and biosciences, information technology, and construction.

SAISD is looking at creating a program in construction management and technology with St. Philip’s College and the University of Texas at San Antonio, a program that could prepare teachers at Brackenridge High School, and a potential engineering program.

“TEA just came out with this P-TECH model,” Vahalik said. “I do see us moving a little faster in the next couple of years rolling stuff out. [As] we get more comfortable with the model we can move faster.”

20 thoughts on “SAISD Planning New Fox Tech Program to Graduate RNs

    • Nursing is no tech type job. It requires a lot of skills and critical thinking because nurses are entrusted the lives of patients- your and my loved ones. A single mistake can kill or injure patient lives. Instead of shortening and making shortcuts in nursing education, they should expand and broaden it. RN education is not a shortcut because your loved ones deserve the best trained, well-educated, and tested skilled nurses. In other countries, RNs take 5 years college education. Do not mistake nurses skills & training as that of nannies or home caregivers.

    • Years ago when I was stationed in San Antonio one of the community colleges (I believe it was SAC) had a 1 year RN program that was accredited and approved by the National Board of Nursing/TX Board of Nursing

  1. WOW- reaching for the Stars! Is this just PR news to keep SAISD in a positive light? Good Luck finding qualified teachers , clinical rotation space, regulatory requirement ( age being a major component) as well as monies to start/ sustain a health track model.
    Local school districts need to incorporate “vocational training” courses/programs at local HS campuses.

  2. RN? Not LVN? That is asking a lot of a student to do in 4 yrs of high school. The steps are usually CNA, LVN and then RN. So that and a high school diploma would be a lot. Unless they are skipping CNA and LVN

  3. I don’t know how they plan to get these students to be RNs when Alamo Colleges does not even offer an RN program. They offer an LVN to RN program (I’m guessing that’s either an RN program for those already licensed as LVNs or and LVN program that prepares you to go into an RN program at the University level). Just like Alamo Colleges doesn’t offer engineering degrees, they offer engineering tech degrees which are not the same thing.

  4. Dewey… Alamo Colleges does offer an RN program. I am currently enrolled in that program. In fact, they offer several. There is a Career-Mobility program for prior service students that were medics in the military. This allows them to become RN in a year. There is a traditional 2 year ADN-RN. After receiving your license through this program, if you choose to go for you BSN, that is easily obtained through various online or brick and mortar programs. The difference between ADN and BSN is that BSN is taught with more theory and is a prereq for moving up the professional ladder. ADN is a great option for students who want to get into nursing faster and have cost constraints. The ADN program is just as rigorous as the BSN. And then of course there is the LVN program which is a year long program and is offered both at SAC and St. Phillips.

    I think this is an excellent program. My sister went through something similar years ago, back in our home town in Georgia. She went to a Magnet School that specialized in Health and Science. Students usually graduated with credits in Nursing or Engineering. Although she didn’t graduate as an RN, she had most of the degree already knocked out. She’s been a Nurse for about 15 years now.

  5. I wouldn’t want a young, unexperienced RN working on me. It takes a lot to be an RN, demand for the job or not. This is ridiculous. You are dealing with people’s lives, not experimental rats. What are they thinking? It may work in other fields but not in medicine when you are dealing with lives. Same goes for doctors. We all want the more experienced, knowledgeable doctors and nurses who know what they are doing.

  6. I think that is great. And as far as experience, alot of college RN programs now don’t have alot if any clinical experience for RNs so you’d be surprised. But go in highschool beats paying exorbitant prices after high school to these medical schools that close half way through for these poor students. So good for you SAISD. We need more vocational schools as we had before.

  7. This is unusual idea to say the least. As a physician, I have worked with RNs trained with BS degree and those that have graduated from a hospital based program. There is not much difference in their skill set and maturity. However, getting 18 and 19 y.o graduates to have the maturity to make decisions that can impact a person’s health is very scary to say the least. In addition, the knowledge required with strong science background to manage the complexity seen in a patient cannot be acquired at the high school level. This an idea that a setup for catastrophic consequences to a patient.


  8. This P-TECH project was comprehensive and compelling enough to earn funding support from the Texas Education Agency. Still, it is disheartening to see the lack of faith in our future medical professionals. GO, FOX TECH, GO!

    • I agree… this is great… this is in collaboration with the local college and Methodist Hospital… the highly motivated student would be taking HS work along with college classes. If these highly motivated students pass the board exam then they should be ready to lead the way into nursing healthcare… we need to increase competition in schools to attract talent at the same time helping with a void in our job market for our community. This curriculum will probably have a highly selective process to ensure a successful passing rate.

      • This “shortage” you speak of doesn’t come from a shortage of nursing personnel. Comes from a shortage of funds to employ.

  9. RN….I think this is a huge leap for the education/critical thinking skills/life experience/maturity needed for such a position.

    However, I can easily see how a LVN program could be introduced at junior/senior levels, and ultimately successful. There would be a need to work directly with the junior colleges that offer LVN —> RN programs, or even 4yr institutions for the ultimate BSN, to either get these young adults into practice immediately and/or programs that would accept their credits to complete a higher degree, should they choose to do so. EMT-B programs should be considered as well.

    BSN—> FNP

  10. I would like the RN taking care of me and my family & friends to be skilled, well-trained and educated from a rigorous 4 year college degree curriculum. No shortcuts.

  11. I have been an LVN for 12 years. I was a CNA for 7. I have worked very closely with RNs over my time and to be perfectly honest the length of schooling does not make them better equipped to perform the tasks that are asked of them, nor does it make them more qualified to think in a life-saving capacity over their counterparts. I myself have found that the level of nursing especially from our beloved RN’s has been poor to say the least. I have worked with great nurses all across the board and have found the majority of RN’s simply want that title and can give you the basic work required of them to simply complete their shifts without caring about your loved one. If their heart is in it and they have a passion, give them a try. You never know.

  12. The P-TECH model is a 4-6 year program, depending on the area of focus, and with the RN program it would definitely be more than four years, due to clinical rotation hours not starting until a student is 18 years old. The exact length of this program is still to be determined, as part of the planning process. This is an RN program that skips the LVN stage. There is currently a 60 hour nursing program at San Antonio College:

  13. Completion of an RN position in the Nursing field at the high school age and level of maturity are not in balance with each other. You need to rethink your end product goals.

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