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Texas Tech program will help Silva students become RNs

(SILVA HEALTH MAGNET HIGH SCHOOL -- Sept. 14, 2021) — The first cohort of Silva’s BSN Pipeline got an early taste of their life after high school last week when they visited the Texas Tech University Hunt School of Nursing and jumped right into simulations of lifelike emergency room scenarios.

The 20 juniors are part of the partnership with Texas Tech University Health Science Center Hunt School of Nursing and will be eligible to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing in 16 months after high-school graduation.

The visit began with presentations by Tech staff and concluded with the students meeting high-fidelity mannequins presenting real symptoms.

“I’ve never been able to see mannequin seize up or show signs of an allergic reaction,” said Ian-Michael Wright. “Just the way it presented itself shows how far technology has come. It was really exciting to see first-hand.”

In one room, students gathered around a mannequin suffering a heart attack. They quickly began compressions, checking vitals and watching the monitors. In another room, students were given the task of determining the weight of a baby. A talking mannequin greeted students in another room, but their task quickly turned as the mannequin began seizing. 

“It was amazing to see mannequin show human qualities and speak,” said junior Isabelle Cortez. “It actually lets you practice on it in a specific manner you wouldn’t have been able to do 10 years ago.” 

The students visited the different simulation rooms, each with a different scenario requiring some hands-on applications. Some skills they already knew – a good sign for the teaching staff at Texas Tech.

“When I know they’re from Silva Magnet, I know they are going to be just fine,” said Manny Santa Cruz, assistant director of the Texas Tech Hunt School of Nursing. “Silva Magnet has historically always created well-developed, very mature, driven students who have always done well in our nursing program.” 

Santa Cruz, who hopes the program helps to address the nursing shortage throughout the city, explained that the traditional way of nurse recruitment – waiting for them to enter college – isn’t sufficient to bring more nurses into the profession.

“We had to be creative and think outside box to develop additional options for students across the city to achieve the goal of becoming nurses,” he said. “We needed to look beyond those walls and start looking into what the high schools have to offer. We know already they have exciting college credit opportunities.” 

A Bachelor of Science degree in nursing gives students an opportunity for a high paying job right out of college in a sustainable field.

“We’re in desperate mode,” Santa Cruz said. “We have a severe short of nursing across the city, the state, the country. The demand with COVID has really spread thin our nursing workforce throughout entire country. There’s a constant catch up with vacancies in nursing that will never go away.” 

The pipeline program gives gets nurses into the workforce more quickly by starting the required prerequisites in high school through a partnership with El Paso Community College. Upon graduation in 2023, the students will earn both their high school diploma and an associate degree.

Without a summer break, the students will continue their coursework to complete their requirements for a Bachelor of Science in nursing at Texas Tech. A year and a half later, their cohort will be graduating at 19 or 20 years old. 

“College is where I get to dive into medical careers and see where I want to branch out to. I’m really excited about it,” Wright said. “I want to be able to make an impact in the medical field. This is going to help me pursue my career faster in life.” 

For Cortez, health care is in her blood. Her dad is a nurse and her mom is a physical therapist, so entering the Texas Tech pipeline seemed a natural fit for her. 

“It’s a little scary to think that all of a sudden my life will change so fast, and I could have someone’s life in my hands so fast, but honestly our teachers are so good at preparing us,” Cortez said. “I can’t wait.”

Story and photos by Reneé de Santos