Students get close-up view of medical careers

Student Ella Grote, left, spent a week learning about the hospital’s development and community relations department with Heather Tietz, center, and Rachel Barten. (Chuck Kajer Photo)

This trimester, when the school day begins, a group of 16 New Prague High School students begin their day not in a classroom, but at the hospital.

The school and with Mayo Clinic Health System in New Prague are working together on a Health Career class for high school seniors, giving them an opportunity to get hands-on experience in the different types of careers available in the health care field.

The class was proposed by Mary Klimp, administrator at the New Prague facility, and Dr. Marty Herrmann, Chief of Staff at the hospital. Students interested in the class had to apply and meet with school administrators and counselors before being accepted.

The first week was sort of a mini “boot camp,” an orientation where students became familiar with the hospital building and its various departments, as well as what would be expected of them during the class.

Ella Grote, one of the students in the class, said students are expected to be dressed professionally. They have a uniform and name badge they must wear at all time, they must wear closetoed shoes, have their hair tied back and their clothes pressed. They also learn confidentiality and other rules they are expected to follow and sign an agreement if they violate any of the rules, they will be dropped from the class.

Students spend one week in various departments in the hospital, shadowing workers and learning some of the basics of each department.

“We also learn how to do some of the basic tasks, such as taking vitals and blood pressure,” said Jessica Turek, another student.

Turek was spending the week in the Emergency Department (ED). During her time there, she had the opportunity to go out onto the helicopter landing pad on the roof of the hospital and assist sending a patient off.

Grote said she learned a lot during her ED period, and also enjoyed her time with the occupational therapy department.

Both of the students are considering going into the medical field. Turek said she is thinking about going into nursing. “This is a good way to find out what it’s like. It gives you an idea of what things are like in this field.”

Grote wasn’t sure what area she was going to go into, but the class “really helps give us an understanding of the different paths we can take in the medical field.”

Students keep a journal, and at the end of the week answer several questions about their experiences in that department. At the end of the trimester, they will write a 7- to 10-page paper. Most students are in the class for two trimesters, but some are signed up only for one.

Students are given a set of competencies that they need to master at the end of each week. For instance, in the ED, students need to set up a cardiac monitor and run a test strip on themselves. “Turek said she was impressed with her stay in the Emergency Departmentment and enjoyed the atmosphere. “They (the workers) all know what they’re expected to do, and they just do it.”

Kelly Ashley, the ED manager, said the class has been a great experience not only for the students, but for the workers as well.

“Some of our managers have said they would like this opportunity to see what all goes on in other departments,” Ashley said. Among the departments students are spending time in are cardiac, radiology, occupational therapy, physical therapy at the Fitness Center, and dietary. Students also spend time in the facilities, kitchen, housekeeping and maintenance departments to give them an understanding of how they fit in the mix.

“Each of the roles is important,” Turek said. “One step missed in any department could have consequences.”

Klimp was administrator at a hospital in International Falls that had a similar program, and has wanted to start this program for several years since coming to New Prague.

“It's been a dream class. A great experience all-around,” she said

. “I love reading the journals of the students and hearing the feedback. We’re looking to grow and expand the course over the next few years.”

High school principal Lonnie Seifert said the class has gone well from the school’s perspective as well.

“There are high expectations of the students, both on our part and on the part of the hospital, and the students have met those expectations,” he said. “We’re giving opportunities for real, hands on experience, which is what kids want.”

He said the district is looking to work with other local businesses to partner with in similar programs. They have been in touch with several businesses who have shown interest, but have not had any commitments yet.