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First high school Health Academy opens on HCA Healthcare campus in Fort Walton Beach

HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital and the Okaloosa County School District (OCSD) held a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the Health Academy of Northwest Florida, the first high school health […]

HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital and the Okaloosa County School District (OCSD) held a ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the Health Academy of Northwest Florida, the first high school health academy to be housed on an HCA Healthcare hospital campus in the country.

  • The academy, a joint partnership between the hospital and OCSD, provides high school students interested in healthcare careers the opportunity to earn industry certifications and gain the skills needed to enter the workforce or continue their post-graduate studies.

“Our team is honored and excited to have the Health Academy of Northwest Florida open and teaching the next generation of healthcare providers,” said Zach McCluskey, CEO of HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital. “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 two-year practical nursing program teaches students the foundational principles of basic nursing and medical skills needed to provide care to patients. Eligible students from Choctawhatchee High School, Fort Walton Beach High School, and Niceville High School can participate in the program through the Career and Technical Education Department of OCSD.

  • During their senior year, students receive hands-on clinical training at HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital.

Upon completion of the program, students will be eligible to earn a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), a Certified Patient Care Technician (CPCT), and/or Electrocardiogram Technician (EKG) certification. Juniors who complete the program will have the opportunity for dual enrollment in the LPN program at Okaloosa Technical College during their senior year, getting a head start on earning their required course hours toward an LPN license.

“We extend our sincere gratitude to HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital for their continuous support in bringing the Health Academy of Northwest Florida to fruition,” said Marcus Chambers, Superintendent of the Okaloosa County School District. “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.”

HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital provided a 6,375-square-foot space to OCSD for the Health Academy of Northwest Florida, which includes two classrooms and two practical labs.

  • Students who successfully complete the practical nursing program will have job placement opportunities throughout HCA Florida Healthcare, and tuition reimbursement will be available for those wishing to continue their education while employed by an HCA Florida Healthcare facility.

“We are grateful for this pioneering collaboration, alongside the invaluable support and funding provided by Triumph Gulf Coast for this program,” said April Branscome, OCSD Career and Technical Education Program Director. “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.”

One Response

  1. Congratulations on a milestone accomplishment within OCSD, providing many students opportunities to pursue career preparation; addressing a current manpower shortage in healthcare professions; proving the power of collaboration of local educators, vested funding through Triumph Gulf Coast, and leadership from HCA Florida Healthcare. To introduce this innovative program, to be the FIRST-EVER program of its kind, is a life-changing gift to the World of Healthcare.

    Martha Bayer, a long-time Okaloosa County resident

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“Would like to know this as well.”
“This is Awesome/ Thank You for Your Service Reuse an Recycle”
“Carolyn, there is two of them this year, the one at the fairgrounds is still on the 27th”
“I thought this was scheduled for April 27th at Fair grounds in FWB.”
“Is there a limit on the amount?”
“Couldn’t the tennis courts be used for Pickle Ball Courts?”
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