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Students in Pima JTED’s Comprehensive Health Care Technician program can earn Phlebotomy Technician, Electrocardiogram Technician and Electronic Health Record Specialist certifications.

As the world is more focused than ever on the importance of medical professionals, local high school students are gaining more opportunities to explore and experience the growing healthcare industry. Pima JTED, a technical education district comprising 14 local high schools, is expanding its Health Care Professions program with two new options: Comprehensive Health Care Technician and Pharmacy Technician. 

For Pima JTED Health Care Professions program manager Beth Francis, the expansion is a long time coming, and especially critical in the time of COVID.

“I’d been thinking of this for maybe three to five years,” Francis said. “And then COVID hit and I was trying to be very creative with programs we could do virtually and then move into a hybrid learning model where the kids can gain their skills and then still be competent and have patient safety in mind.” 

The Comprehensive Health Care Technician emphasis, which started August 2020, allows high school students to earn three certifications that can lead to direct employment in the medical field: Certified Phlebotomy Technician, Electrocardiogram Technician and Electronic Health Record Specialist. The program is available for high school juniors and seniors, and the inaugural Comprehensive Health Care Technician cohort includes 44 local high school students. 

The Pharmacy Technician emphasis, which will begin August 2021, teaches students to prepare and provide medications to patients, and work on a team to manage pharmacy operations. The program is available for high school seniors. 

Also including specialties like Health Care Foundations, Health Information Technology and Licensed Nursing Assistant, Pima JTED’s broader Health Care Professions program is growing alongside the needs of the local healthcare industry. 

“We’re seeing shortages and a need in a lot of different pathways,” Francis said. “It’s not just nursing anymore. It’s medical doctors, pharmacists, physical therapists, electronic health records. We are seeing a massive growth in all these different professions, and what we try to do here at JTED through working with our community partners is to talk to them about their needs—what is happening in the healthcare field and how can we assist you by providing entry-level education and certification to get these kiddos in the pipeline.”

The classes are offered at multiple JTED-affiliated locations, including JTED Camino Seco, Cholla High School, and the University of Arizona’s tech park The Bridges. The healthcare programs are offered to all students at high schools connected to Pima JTED, which actually stretches beyond Pima County and into locations like Nogales and Mammoth-San Manuel. 

But outside the classroom, JTED also partners with local hospitals like Tucson Medical Center, Carondelet, Northwest and Oro Valley hospital, and Banner to provide students with direction out of the program. 

According to Francis, 93% of the students in JTED’s healthcare programs go on to post-secondary education in the healthcare industry, such as other certifications and training, which is another reason JTED is expanding these healthcare certification programs. 

“It’s really about working with the community and our healthcare partners to figure out where the gap is, to supply future workers.” Francis said. “I’m not just putting a program together because it’s a cool program, but because it’s really needed in our community.” 

The Pima Joint Technical Education District was established in 2007 and offers tuition-free programs to qualified sophomore, junior and senior-level high school students who may earn high school credit, college credit, industry certifications and/or a state license. Other programs and classes include carpentry, software development, music production, dental assisting, photography, construction technology, cosmetology, aviation technology, digital communications, HVAC and more.