National Health Science Standards

New for May 2015: The Enhanced and Clarified National Health Science Standards Unveiled

The National Consortium for Health Science Education (NCHSE) often heard from classroom teachers that the National Healthcare Foundation Standards were generic and vague.  The standards and accountability criteria were written in such a way that left room for guessing what should be taught to meet each standard.  Teachers spoke out and we listened!

Through a recent collaborative meeting with Precision Exams, provider of the National Health Science Assessment, members of  NCHSE Executive Committee worked to enhance and clarify the standards and  accountability criteria without changing the intent of the standards. The term “accountability criteria” has been removed. This content will now be referred to as objectives providing more detail under each standard.

The guiding principle of this work: if these standards were reviewed by to a classroom teacher or a health science student would they know what to teach or what they were expected to learn? Attention was given to keep the outline and numbering intact to reduce impacts on state curriculums aligned to the national standards. The National Health Science Assessment for 2016 will reflect the enhanced standards in new test items.

Finally the standards have been renamed to reflect what they truly are the National Health Science Standards. Please share with all stakeholders who have a vested interest in preparing the health workforce of the future. Certainly advisory committees and human resource professionals should see the standards and understand the excellent preparation work that is occurring in secondary health science education programs across the nation. We hope you find these enhanced standards useful and they will provide more meaning for teachers and accountability for students. May 20, 2015


In 1992 in collaboration with Far West Research Laboratory, the National Consortium for Health Science Education (NCHSE) (formerly NCHSTE, the National Consortium on Health Science and Technology Education) was awarded a three-year $1.4 million dollar grant by the U.S. Department of Education to establish National Healthcare Skill Standards.   The grant was one of twenty-two issued collaboratively by the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor to establish common standards for industry sectors that employ the largest number of the working population.

The resultant eleven common healthcare foundation standards and four career pathway standard sets; Diagnostic, Therapeutic, Environmental and Health Information, provided the basis for all other consortium curriculum related materials.  During the process more than 1,000 healthcare employers, college and university faculty, secondary teachers and professional organization representatives provided input to identify common practices, reviewed the content for each standard, and pilot tested the results within their agency or organization. Dissemination of the National Healthcare Skill Standards began in September 1995 at an unveiling reception in Washington, DC with policy makers and pilot site representatives in attendance.

After extensive discussion, it was agreed that the career pathway standards would be organized by function rather than job title to create a more manageable grouping.  Once the standards were completed a “Setting the Bar Summit” was held to add accountability criteria or performance measures to the foundation standards.  These criteria were intended to further describe each standard and to be used as a basis for curriculum design and standards assessment. More than sixty employers, representatives from professional associations, and educators both secondary and postsecondary participated in the work at the Summit.

A second “Setting the Bar Summit” was held in 2002 to reevaluate the career pathway standards and add accountability criteria for each.  As a result several of the career pathways were renamed and a fifth pathway was added; Health Information was changed to Health Informatics, Environmental Services was changed to Support Services and Biotechnology Research and Development was added.  Revisions and additions to the standards were made and accountability criteria for each standard were developed.

National Healthcare Foundation Standards and Accountability Criteria

The healthcare standards offer an answer to the question, “What does a worker need to know and be able to contribute to the delivery of safe and effective healthcare?” The standards represent core expectations most workers need to succeed in health careers. Benefits of having nationally validated healthcare standards include potential to forge strong links among various stakeholders. The foundation standards provide a common language, common goal, and a common reference point for educators, employers and consumers. The National Healthcare Foundation Standards include the Accountability Criteria that serve to better define expectations for meeting the standards, to provide content for curriculum design, and a framework for measurement and certification of achievement.

A committee of subject matter experts revised the accountability criteria in May 2009. Revisions were minor as the content and intent of the criteria did not change from previous updates in January 2008; simply some wording. Attempts were made to have more user-friendly language, add clarity, and delete duplicates. In January 2011, the accountability criteria for Foundation Standard 11: Information Technology Applications were enhanced to reflect workforce needs created by the electronic health record (EHR) and health information technology (HIT).

The standards allow:

  • Students and parents to have clear direction to help set goals for future employment;
  • Educators are able to design quality curriculum and instruction consistent with industry expectations; and
  • Consumers and employers benefit from high quality, efficient healthcare delivery from well-trained workers.

National Healthcare Foundation Standards Crosswalk
The NCHSE Foundation Standards have been crosswalked to the Common Career Technical Core Career Ready Practices. (September 2012)

Pathway Standards (Updated July 2012)
The Common Career Technical Core (CCTC) is a state-led initiative to establish a set of rigorous, high-quality standards for Career Technical Education (CTE). The CCTC includes a set of standards for each of the 16 Career Clusters® and their corresponding Career Pathways that define what students should know and be able to do after completing instruction in a program of study. The CCTC also includes an overarching set of Career Ready Practices that apply to all programs of study. See more at: The Health Science Pathway Career Pathway Standards have been crosswalked to the CCTE.

Five Pathway Standards are currently available:

  • Therapeutic Services Standards (PDF)
    These standards apply to occupations or functions primarily involved in changing the health status of the patient over time. The standards specify the knowledge and skills needed by professionals in the therapeutic services pathway.
  • Diagnostic Services Standards (PDF)
    These standards apply to occupations and functions primarily involved in creating a picture of the heath status of the patient at a single point in time. The standards specify the knowledge and skills needed by professionals in the diagnostic services pathway.
  • Health Informatics Standards (PDF)
    These standards apply to occupations or functions that document patient care. The standards specify the knowledge and skills needed by professionals in the health informatics pathway.
  • Support Services Standards (PDF)
    These standards apply to occupations or functions involving direct or patient care that create a therapeutic environment of providing that care. The standards specify the knowledge and skills needed by professionals in the support services pathway.
  • Biotechnology Research & Development Standards (PDF)
    These standards apply to occupations and functions primarily involved in biotechnology research and development that applies to human health. The standards specify the knowledge and skills needed by professionals in the biotechnology research and development pathway.

Download a sample NCHSE certificate