High school students on the healthcare frontlines, size up careers in the medical field

·5 min read

Area high school students have learned that they can enter the healthcare field in one of many professions - not just doctors and nurses.

Twelve students at Rapides Regional Medical Center were selected for the Central Louisiana Area Health Education Center (CLAHEC) program called "A-HEC of a Summer." The three-week program gives students hands on experience in various medical professions at local hospitals.

"People think there are only doctors and people that are on the front lines but there are so many people working behind the scenes as well," said Anjana Danivas, a Bolton High School 11th grader.

It also gave her an appreciation for what nurses do.

"I went to the emergency department and it really exceeded my expectations," she said. "I underestimated the nurses' jobs so I really appreciate what they do."

AHEC students Anthony Ugokwe (far left) and Joshua Decker (far right) spend a day in the Rapides Regional Medical Center Rehab Department learning from Bailey Hagan, rehab tech, and Courtney Berry, physical therapist.
AHEC students Anthony Ugokwe (far left) and Joshua Decker (far right) spend a day in the Rapides Regional Medical Center Rehab Department learning from Bailey Hagan, rehab tech, and Courtney Berry, physical therapist.

"There are so many people that contribute to different things even though you only see so many people," said Chloe Cloessner, a 10th grader at Grace Christian. She learned there are people who read CT scans, x-rays and other things like that.

"It's not just doctors that do that. There's other people," she said.

The program is designed to help students figure out whether healthcare is a suitable career for them, said Theresa Hood, the hospital's health educator. They might find out that a healthcare field they wanted to pursue is not for them but find that another is.

For example, she said that a student might come into the program thinking that they want to be an anesthesiologist but after getting hands-on experience, decide that the career really doesn't suit them.

Students rotate through all the departments such as lab, radiology, pharmacy, surgery, rehab services, labor and delivery, NICU and the the ER just to name a few.

"They pretty much hit all clinical departments," Hood said.

Students do rotations with different departments in the morning, and in the afternoon have classes taught by a Rapides Parish teacher who gives them different activities to do. They also get to go on field trips to places like Montgomery Animal Clinic and LifeShare Blood Center.

Terri Brouillette (far right), a registered vascular technologist at Rapides Regional Medical Center, shows AHEC students Chloe Cloessner and Anjana Danivas how equipment in the radiology department works.
Terri Brouillette (far right), a registered vascular technologist at Rapides Regional Medical Center, shows AHEC students Chloe Cloessner and Anjana Danivas how equipment in the radiology department works.

After three weeks in the program, some students have already identified what they would like to do.

"I wanted to learn more about each department to be able to chisel out what I could see myself doing in the future," said Emily Morgan, a homeschool student. "Labor and delivery really struck me with just how much they do. They are responsible for so much. I really like that."

Cloessner said there are so many options and so much to learn in the healthcare field and there are options within it for someone to move around and find a field with which they are happy.

"There are so many things. It's so complex. It's not what everybody makes it to seem," she said.

"It really brought a light to nursing," said Joshua Decker, a Grant High School 11th grade student. "Nursing has always been something I wanted to do but I never really knew how in-depth you get with a patient - the true interactions and friendships you can make with the patients through nursing."

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Cloessner is interested in being a nurse anesthetist. She said didn't realize just how much of an impact healthcare workers have on a patient's day. She said that just by talking to them, healthcare workers can change how a patient feels and brighten up their day.

"You get to bring light into the world when you thought you couldn't, or impact someone's life that you didn't know you could impact," she said.

"I like the trauma unit and the ER," said Aubree Martin, a Glenmora High School, 11th grader. "I love the fast pace and everybody working together and knowing their part and what to do whenever an emergency comes in."

"I'm looking at radiology today and I might as well go into it because I love it so much," said Danivas.

AHEC students Aubree Martin (left) and Emily Morgan got to spend a day in the pharmacy at Rapides Regional Medical Center learning about the day to day operations.
AHEC students Aubree Martin (left) and Emily Morgan got to spend a day in the pharmacy at Rapides Regional Medical Center learning about the day to day operations.

Watching a surgery, preparing a patient for a cardio inversion, which uses shocks to restore heart rhythm and seeing how ER staff treat emergencies such as gunshot wounds were just some of the experiences the students had.

"Seeing patients intubated - many things that you don't get to see on the outside," said Decker.

Hood said some students who have been through the program are now on staff at RRMC.

"I have a nurse who works in labor and delivery," she said. "And she was one of my AHEC children. We had a couple of different ones who came to work here as nurses."

Also, she said one of their radiology managers was also an AHEC student, as was another department manager.

Students earn high school credit, said Hood. Since the program is only three weeks long, they can't miss any days. To apply, they must fill out an application and provide letters of recommendations. The students are interviewed and selected by an AHEC team. To learn more about the program, visit clahec.org

This is the 6th year RRMC has hosted the students.

"We hope to foster their interest in healthcare and keep that interest intact so one day they will continue their education and become healthcare workers," said Hood.

"I really generalized the medical field as - my dad's a pediatrician - and I thought it was pediatricians and people that work with patients and family care and family practice," said Danivas. But she the program taught her there are so many more professions to pursue in healthcare.

"I can do anything in the medical field," she said.

This article originally appeared on Alexandria Town Talk: RRMC shows AHEC students what it's like on frontline of healthcare