November 19, 2021

Charter high school for future nurses to open in Albany next fall

School aims to build diverse pipeline for health care professions to meet growing demand

ALBANY — A new charter high school designed to prepare students for careers in nursing and other health care professions has been approved to open in Albany in the fall of 2022.

The school, called the Nurses Middle College Charter High School – Capital Region, will offer students from 10 local school districts the chance to earn college credits, clinical experience in health care settings and entry-level patient care certifications by the time they graduate. It will open to 130 incoming ninth-graders next fall, and eventually expand to serve 500 students through grade 12.

The goal, according to board chair Susan Birkhead and vice chair Brenda Robinson, is to create a pipeline of future nurses and health care professionals that can meet growing demand and is as diverse as the communities that make up the Capital Region.

“One of the huge elements of health care disparities and unequal treatment in health care is the underrepresentation of people of color in the field,” said Robinson, founder and CEO of the Black Nurses Coalition in Albany. “And as our world becomes more and more diverse, who knows us better than us?”

The school was modeled after the Rhode Island Nurses Institute Middle College Charter High School in Providence, which opened a decade ago to address the lack of diversity in the state’s nursing field and meet growing demand. When it opens next fall, the Capital Region school will be the second charter school in the nation dedicated to the nursing and health care professions.

The need for more nurses — and for a more diverse nursing profession — is vast, Robinson said.

Students from the Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Watervliet, East Greenbush, Menands, Cohoes, Guilderland, Niskayuna and North Colonie school districts who will be entering ninth grade next year are eligible to apply. Applications are available at and are due by April 1 at 5 p.m.

The school will be free to attend, and students will be provided Chromebooks and uniforms. Admission will be determined by a random lottery set to take place on April 7.

The board is in the process of searching for a space for the school, but the plan is for it to be located in Albany in an area accessible by city bus that also has parking, Robinson said.

A number of partners in academia and health care have come forward to support the project, said Birkhead, who has spent the majority of her career in nursing education at the Samaritan Hospital School of Nursing in Troy. By the time they graduate, students should have transferrable credits from area colleges and internship experience through partners such as Albany Medical Center, St. Peter’s Health Partners and the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, she said.

Mentorship will be another big piece of the school experience, said Robinson.

“Folks in this field often have a doctor or nurse or whomever help groom them, but oftentimes in lower income areas they don’t have that particular opportunity,” she said. “And I think this school is certainly a great action to bring that opportunity and that guidance and influence to our diverse community so that we can give them that experience.”

Despite the current exodus of workers from the field, Robinson and Birkhead said they believe the nursing profession can and will continue to attract new people. Applications to nursing schools are up across the board and the Rhode Island charter school has a wait list of about 400 interested students, Birkhead said.

“Yes, you hear stories of people walking away from nursing,” she said. “But you also hear stories of people being attracted to nursing and switching to a new career because of what they have seen in the pandemic and how much they admire that and how much they feel that they can make a difference as well. So we anticipate there will be real interest in this.”

The Albany Times Union:

Recent Posts