Chicago Public Schools this fall will open the city’s first high school specializing in health care, a move local hospitals hope will help relieve chronic workforce shortages.
The school, which recently used a lottery system to enroll a freshman class of 160, will have a heavy emphasis on math and science. Juniors and seniors will be able to earn credits by shadowing hospital workers and interning as assistant nurses and in other professions.
Planners aim to prepare students for health- and science-related college programs and certify them for entry-level jobs in health care, such as pharmacy technicians or assistant physical therapists.
“There’s a tremendous need for us to prepare the next generation of health care professionals,” said Juan Salgado, president of Instituto del Progreso Latino, a nonprofit career development group in Pilsen. “If we don’t do a better job of that in our city neighborhoods and communities of color, we’re going to fall short.”
The Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy will set up shop temporarily on the Chicago campus of National-Lewis University. It will seek a permanent site in the Pilsen neighborhood.
Instituto del Progreso Latino and the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council, a trade group of hospitals and other medical providers, applied to CPS to form the school. It’s one of nearly 100 city schools formed under Renaissance 2010, the city’s 6-year-old plan to open innovative schools in poor neighborhoods.
Chicago-area hospitals had openings for more than 3,000 registered nurses as of March, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. They’re looking for hundreds more physical therapists, pharmacists, lab technicians, computer specialists and other professionals.
“The shortage of nurses and allied health professionals continues to exist, and it’s going to become a bigger problem,” said Kevin Scanlan, CEO of the health care council. “This is an innovative program that relies on hospitals to provide opportunities to students.”