Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Students focus on medical careers

New high school academy teaches professional skills

Express Staff Writer

Wood River High School Medical Technologies Academy students, from left, Maria Servato, Crystal Velasquez and Cristal Madrigal, experience life in the ER. Express photo by Megan Thomas

Last Friday, "Dr. Servato" toured St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center, south of Ketchum. With her name embossed across a black sweatshirt, the guest saw the emergency room, conversed with nurses and examined X-ray images.

Rather than a tenured medical expert, Maria Servato is an aspiring doctor and a senior at Wood River High School.

"I want to be a doctor, but I don't know what kind," Servato said.

Aspiring doctors, nurses and medical technicians enrolled in Wood River High School's Medical Technologies Academy toured the hospital Friday, Feb. 3, to explore the medical field.

"The purpose was for them to go to the hospital to get an idea of what a hospital is like," said Tricia Gibas, the high school's medical academy teacher.

During the visit, the class split into small groups to explore their interests. Some students scrubbed down to visit the operating room, while others learned about digital medical imaging and toured the emergency room.

"I thought (the academy) was going to be interesting. I would like some day to do something in the medical field," said Cristal Madrigal, a junior.

The medical academy is the Blaine County School District's newest career-focused academy. The district offers eight academies, seven at Wood River and one at Carey, to foster career-track opportunities.

In its first year, the academy introduces students to the health-care field through field trips, classroom experiences and guest-speaker presentations. A nurse practitioner, firefighter, physical therapist and respiratory therapist have spoken to students about health-related careers.

"This is a stepping stone to becoming a health professional," said Stacy Smith, academy director.

During the recent field trip, St. Luke's health professionals met with students to explain medical technologies, job skills and training.

"Getting to know who you are and what you like will help you love your job or hate your job," said David Sundholm, a magnetic-resonance-imaging technician.

As he detailed the imaging process, Sundholm invited students to examine a series of MRI images on his computer. Students saw pictures of a brain, while the technician explained his career path and the job skills relevant to his profession.

The academy teaches relevant health care job skills. Next year, the two-year program will offer certified nurse assistant certification to second-year students, through a partnership with the College of Southern Idaho.

"It will give them a step up to get into nursing school ... hopefully they will come back and work in the community," Gibas said.

This year, three seniors, including Servato, opted to take the CNA class during after-school sessions.

CSI pays for the students to attend the class. In November, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded CSI a nearly $1.46 million grant called the Power of Rural Partnerships—Solutions for Health Occupations Shortages. The grant encourages community-based job training, which benefits the high school's medical academy.

Through the grant, CSI provided a patient bed for the academy students. The medical academy classroom hopes to add another bed next year to build a nursing lab classroom.

Rather than hands-on activities, students noted the focus on memorizing terminology and anatomy. In its first year, supplies are sparse, interest abundant. Nineteen students are enrolled in the class.

"We were lucky to have the numbers ... its definitely going to have sustainability and longevity," Smith said.

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