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First High School Health Academy on HCA Healthcare Campus Now Open in Fort Walton Beach

HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital and the Okaloosa County School District (OCSD) announced the opening today of the Health Academy of Northwest Florida on the hospital’s campus. The Health Academy of Northwest Florida is the first high school health academy to be housed on an HCA Healthcare hospital campus anywhere in the country. A joint partnership between HCA Florida Fort-Walton Destin Hospital and OCSD, the Health Academy of Northwest Florida provides high school students interested in healthcare careers the opportunity to earn industry certifications, providing them with the skills they need to directly 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.”

Students enrolled in the two-year practical nursing program learn the foundational principles of basic nursing and medical skills needed to provide care to patients.

"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.

Students at Choctawhatchee High School, Fort Walton Beach High School and Niceville High School are eligible to participate in the practical nursing program through the Career and Technical Education Department of OCSD. Students receive hands-on clinical training at HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital during their senior year. Upon completion of the two-year 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, and get a head start on earning their required course hours toward an LPN license.

“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.”

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