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Jobs, Work & Anatomy

In the movie “The Graduate,” college graduate Ben is told the future is “plastics.”

It’s very possible that was true in 1967, when the movie came out, but today “Mr. McGuire,” the man trying to give Ben a heads’ up, might have used a different word instead.


In short, the need for health care workers is soaring. Global health care consultancy Mercer projects that 2.5 million workers will be hired in the health care industry by 2025.

More than half of the new jobs forecasted will be needed in the form of personal care aides, home health aides, and registered nurses but the shortages will be across the board, including physicians.

Way back in 2011, the folks behind Banner Health’s Northern Colorado Medical Center (NCMC) started investing in their future by pledging $300,000 overall in the expansion of the Health Science Academy at Greeley Central High School, which happens to be located directly across the street to the east from the medical center.

“We believe that providing this avenue to obtain the needed training is important to ensure that we have highly trained, committed people in the future health care workforce,” said Rick Sutton, NCMC’s chief executive officer, back in 2011.

The investment yielded the Health Science Academy, which debuted in 2012. Student lessons are delivered in a simulated clinical environment, using state-of-the-art equipment, including hospital beds, medical mannequins, and an array of diagnostic and therapeutic equipment and supplies.

And, of course, the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System.

On a cool morning in mid-October, science teacher Nathan Harvey helped a classroom full of sophomores start their work this semester with the MANIKEN® models. The students fashion clay into a shape for the temporalis and apply it to their models, using loop tools to carve, shape, and indicate the muscle striations.

Harvey makes his way around the room as students work on the zygomatic arch, orbicularis oculi and the buccinator, too.

Anatomy in Clay, notes Harvey, includes “everything from the big picture down to the small details.” It’s much more than muscles, he says, and allows students to study the “small intricacies” of nerves and ligaments, too.

Harvey is familiar with the power of hands-on learning. He graduated from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, where the “Learn By Doing” slogan has been around for about 120 years.

“It gets kids ready so much faster than just reciting terms and memorizing,” says Harvey. “And it brings out the childish side, too, playing with clay. They are doing things they care about.”

Harvey says the key to the success of the Health Science Academy is ongoing strong communication with Banner Health and with nearby Aims Community College. That’s because both organizations help the Health Science Academy understand precisely what kinds of specific skills are needed. Frequently, says Harvey, he is told that in addition to developing students who have a good understanding of some health care and anatomy basics, that they also need to acquire good “inter-personal” and other “soft” skills that go into the human side of health care.

There is usually a large group of entering freshman who seem keen to explore what the Health Science Academy has to offer, says Harvey, and then the numbers dwindle year after year. But those who stick with it, he says, have many opportunities waiting to work and continue in the health care field after high school.

Several HSA graduates are now in their third year of college, says Harvey, and pursuing degrees in biology and anatomy with hopes of getting into medical schools. “And some students who did not go to all four years in the HSA, email and ask questions about their college courses, which shows they still respect our program,” he adds.

Harvey was once a member of the health care workforce, working in microbiology in a blood lab in California. But Harvey saw the pleasure his mother drew from working as a teacher and went back to get his teaching degree. He hasn’t looked back.

Says Harvey, “I wouldn’t change it for the world.”


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