HSC prioritizes microcredentials to enhance students’ career readiness

By Betsy Friauf

Covid Testing Detail Unt Health Science Center Web

At The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth (HSC), student career readiness is enhanced in myriad ways. One of the latest is microcredentialing.

Microcredentials are competency-based, specialized certifications attesting that a student has mastered specific skills for a certain activity or procedure. Microcredentials are crucial and have been made a priority in the University’s strategic plan for educating the providers of the future.

HSC students are instrumental in creating a healthier community, often through volunteering. Recently, HSC students earned microcredentials while serving as volunteers at a COVID-19 testing site.

Physician Assistant student Madi Garrett is among HSC students who earned microcredentials while manning a testing site. She helped calm anxious patients getting COVID-19 tests. For Garrett, earning a microcredential was a valuable bonus. It was her responsibility, she says, “to keep everything in good order so the patients would be reassured in a moment of extreme stress.”

Garrett worked to slow the COVID-19 pandemic. Sometimes Garrett wore full Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, as she double-checked paperwork and performed additional tasks to help ensure smooth communication so patients could get their results in time.

“Volunteering is rewarding,” Garrett said. “But I also earned a microcredential in Pandemic Emergency Response, which will be a plus in my career. I can put it on my CV when I apply for jobs.”

Career Readiness: an interprofessional collaboration

Career Readiness is a collaborative effort that reaches all HSC academic disciplines and includes co-curricular activities throughout the institution.

Career Center Director Jimmy Renfro said that although the program is fairly new, “making sure our students are highly prepared for their careers is what we do every day.”

“Everything our HSC students experience and accomplish on a daily basis comes back to their career preparedness,” Renfro said, “so our microcredentialing mission, and that of the HSC Career Center, is to ensure that they are able to connect the dots to these specific Career Readiness skills and understand their significance.”

Prepared to serve in the next pandemic

Amanda Plein, fourth-year TCOM student, also earned the Pandemic Emergency Response microcredential at the HSC coronavirus test site. She served as a student lead.

“There likely will be another pandemic in our lifetime, and with this microcredential I’ll be prepared to serve on a core team setting up a testing site,” she said.

An important part of this microcredentialing process was an after-action evaluation, both one-on-one with Vice Provost Jessica Rangel and in small groups with other students.

“We answered questions about what we did at that site and also how we would respond in various scenarios,” Plein said. “I can tell a prospective employer how I would apply my learnings from a real-world testing site to additional situations.”

“Real” is the word both students use repeatedly in describing the experience.

“Didactics and labs help prepare us in choosing and donning PPE,” said Garrett. “At the test site, earning the microcredential was not just for a grade – it was real life.”

Learn more about HSC Career Readiness in the HSC Career Center.

For more on microcredentialing at HSC, please contact HSC Career Center Director Jimmy Renfro, james.renfro@UNTHSC.edu.

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