Okaloosa County School District, Hospital Open Healthcare-Centered Academy

The Health Academy of Northwest Florida, a joint initiative between HCA Healthcare and OCSD, offers high school students hands-on training and industry certifications in healthcare. This partnership aims to prepare students for rewarding careers in the healthcare industry right out of high school.

HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital and the Okaloosa County School District (OCSD) opened their Health Academy of Northwest Florida in a ribbon cutting ceremony April 1.

The facility, located on the hospital’s campus offers high school students a several pathways into healthcare careers.

The Health Academy of Northwest Florida is the first high school health academy housed on an HCA Healthcare hospital campus anywhere in the country.ย 

The district and the hospital group hope to provide students with the skills and certifications necessary to enter the healthcare workforce directly or pursue further studies in the field.

Zach McCluskey, CEO of HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital,ย ย “Our team is honored and excited to have the Health Academy of Northwest Florida open and teaching the next generation of healthcare providers,” McCluskey said, “The health and wellbeing of our community is our top priority, and this partnership allows us to address growing healthcare needs while helping students connect with a rewarding career path.”

The academy offers a two-year practical nursing program where students learn foundational nursing principles and medical skills essential for patient care. Students enrolled in this program have the opportunity to earn industry-recognized certifications, including Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Certified Patient Care Technician (CPCT), and Electrocardiogram Technician (EKG).

Marcus Chambers, Superintendent of the Okaloosa County School District,ย expressed gratitude for the partnership and highlighted the practical nursing training provided at the academy. He mentioned, “This facility will provide our students with practical nursing training, enabling them to earn industry-recognized certifications and creating a direct path from high school to employment in leading local hospitals or other medical facilities.”

Students from Choctawhatchee High School, Fort Walton Beach High School, and Niceville High School are eligible to participate in the practical nursing program through OCSD’s Career and Technical Education Department. They receive hands-on clinical training at HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital during their senior year, setting them up for success in the healthcare industry.

April Branscome, OCSD Career and Technical Education Program Director, noted the historic significance of this collaboration, stating, “This marks a historic milestone as the first initiative of its kind nationwide, ushering in a transformative era in healthcare education. Together, we embark on this journey of innovation, poised to redefine the future of healthcare education.”

As part of the partnership, HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital has provided a 6,375-square-foot space to OCSD for the Health Academy of Northwest Florida, including classrooms and practical labs.ย 

Successful graduates of the program will have job placement opportunities throughout HCA Florida Healthcare facilities, with tuition reimbursement available for those wishing to continue their education while employed.


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