Red Oak High School has recently renovated the health-sciences program by adding a virtual hospital to the program thanks to a grant awarded by the Texas Workforce Commission.

The virtual hospital resides in the Career Technology and Education (CTE) building on the middle school campus where students learn hands-on and project-based career-oriented topics.

CTE Director Lisa Menton said, “We try to offer industry certification so that they are very desirable when they leave to be employees.”

The opportunities provided by the virtual hospital vary for the 400 students that go through the foundation courses, as well as, the select students who choose to peruse a health-sciences pathway upon graduating.

For students that dedicate their studies to health-sciences, they have the opportunity to graduate with three possible certifications: phlebotomist, patient care technician and pharmaceutical technologist.

“These certifications can make them more employable as soon as they leave high school. They can help pay for college as they go. They always have something to fall back on, a skill,” Menton said.

All of the equipment in the virtual hospital was purchased with a $263,602 grant awarded by the Texas Workforce Commission. The room consists of a stand-alone phlebotomy room, 10 hospital beds, simulated mannequin patients, an airflow machine that compounds pharmacy medicines together to make correct medicines along with all the necessary gadgets.

According to a TWC press release, the Jobs in Education Training program provides funding for equipment to eligible educational institutions for the purpose of developing career and technical education courses and may include courses offering dual-credit and technical education programs. The equipment must be used to train students in high-demand occupations that include nursing.

“By partnering with local colleges and independent school districts, these grants will prepare our future workforce to meet the needs of Texas employers for high-demand occupations,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Employers Ruth R. Hughs. These grants will focus on advanced technical training and will keep our Texas businesses competitive and our economy growing.”

Chris York, President of Baylor Scott and White Medical Center — Waxahachie, added, “Red Oak ISD has a longstanding tradition of educating healthcare providers of the future. We at Baylor Scott and White Health have enjoyed an amazing and productive educational relationship, hosting hundreds of Red Oak students over the years.”

Soon, students can look forward to using a chemosphere machine, which compounds medicines for chemotherapy.

One unique aspect of the virtual hospital is the birthing suite. This scenario consists of a pregnant woman who was involved in a car accident. The mother goes through contractions and then delivers the baby. The baby comes with an attached umbilical cord and the placenta is also delivered with the baby. Students are able to perform ultrasounds on the mother to hear the fetal heart beating.

An upper-level teacher who practiced nursing for 25 years, Dawn Little said, surprisingly, a lot of the students are interested in the opportunity.

“She’s also been in an accident which gives us the ability to put a nasal gastric tube down her nose, into her stomach and check for placement. You have to use a stethoscope to do that and blow air into it,” Little explained.

The simulated mannequin patients are also programmed to hemorrhage out, suffer from a heart attack, have the need to have their blood pressure taken, check O2 saturation, sinus rhythm and heart rhythm.

The procedures used on the mannequin patients mirror how medical professionals work in a real-life hospital.

“We were very fortunate, we got to come in on changes, like having the arms for phlebotomy. Different things like that. Some school districts that might have this set up like even a year or two ago wouldn’t have access to. We have the very latest, new technology that students have to learn on,” Menton explained.

Menton said the closest on-site virtual hospital on an independent school campus is in Mansfield. She added that the grant wouldn’t have been awarded to them without the partnership the school has with Navarro College or Baylor Scott and White Medical Center — Waxahachie.

“Our outstanding Health Science program includes our valued partnership with Baylor Scott and White, where our students participate in hospital observations each week,” stated Dr. Michael Goddard, Superintendent of Red Oak ISD. “We are fortunate to have our program taught by instructors who are fully certified health industry professionals themselves.”

Menton added the nursing program was most desirable due to the thousands of job openings for nurses. The experience gained from the virtual hospital helps students’ resumes, transcripts, and senior portfolios in order to get them at the top of the waitlist for nursing school.

Along with the hands-on experience, students also take college-level science courses that transfer over to college credit. Menton said these dedicated students spend easily six hours a day between working in the virtual hospital and on their studies.

Though the virtual hospital has only been in operation for a few months, Menton said students in the program can look forward to internships and actual job shadowing in the future.

“Karen Anderson, Executive Director for the Red Oak ISD Education Foundation, along with Career and Technical Education Director Lisa Menton are to be commended for their outstanding work which led to this successful grant award," Goddard added. "We appreciate the opportunities which will be made available for our students as a result of their investment in this process, along with the Texas Workforce Commission’s support and acknowledgment of our outstanding program."