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Respiratory Therapist Shelley Beam shows students Cate Baker and Rylee Cooper how to use the baby warmer on newborns. Photo by Danielle Plocki

Students explore careers in healthcare

Submitted by Lisa Kelly

PhD K12 Strong Workforce Pathway Coordinator 

Nationwide, healthcare and medical pathways are among the fastest growing and most popular choices for high school career education programs, and the pandemic increased that demand.

Healthcare pathways are increasingly important today, not just because of the pandemic, but because they are so diverse—spanning careers from doctors and nurses to paramedics, nutritionists, imaging technology, emergency medicine, records and technology, hematology, phlebotomy and epidemiology. In addition, careers in healthcare are much more likely to lead to living wage jobs. Even though healthcare, like most career fields, took a massive hit in the immediate wake of the coronavirus, with 1.5 million health-care jobs lost from February to April of last year, healthcare lost fewer jobs than most other sectors and bounced back more quickly than the U.S. labor market as a whole. Prior to the pandemic, many health care institutions needed more healthcare workers and had started working with schools to grow their own.

The challenges of offering healthcare education programs here in Plumas County are not unique and are multifold: how to provide students, who have an interest in this sector, with the hands-on and on-site experience they need at a time of social distance and virtual learning; how to meet the needs of students who have varying academic schedules among our local high schools; how to provide students access to professionals in the industry in an authentic medical setting and finally, the challenge of finding and incentivizing instructional resources.  Let’s face it, it is a tough sell to get healthcare professionals off the hospital floor and into the classroom for a multitude of reasons.

Laboratory Manager Suvash Khanal shows student Kyra Cedillos red blood cells in the microscope. Photo by Danielle Plocki

The Plumas Health Careers Exploration Spring Institute (PHESI) is a free academic institute sponsored by the Butte College’s Health Workforce Initiative (HWI). It provides high school students the opportunity to discover if they are interested in a healthcare career by working with professionals in an authentic setting. This past January, the PHESI program was piloted at Plumas District Hospital and was open to Plumas County high school interested in a healthcare career. Led by Plumas Charter School’s Danielle Plocki, who is the Health Pathway Coordinator and an RN, program planning was very focused and efficient.  Much of the curriculum and instructional materials were generously provided by HWI. Thanks to a visionary administration, partnering with Plumas District Hospital was greatly facilitated, as the hospital totally got behind the program and its dedicated staff assured its success.  Department managers were eager to work with students, imparting valuable knowledge and hands-on experiences.  The pilot included seven students from Plumas Charter and one senior from Plumas Unified.

Greg Perkins, Imaging Manager had oversight of a rotation in the Imaging Department, had this to say: “My favorite part of this program so far has been seeing how much the students enjoy working with our staff. While these short shadowing opportunities are beneficial, I feel that this program has a lot of room to grow and become something more. My staff and I will continue to encourage these kinds of learning opportunities for young people interested in a career in Imaging.”

Linda Carter, Rural Health Clinic Nursing Manager offered her expertise to students interested in Clinical Nursing: “The RHC Nursing team has been so impressed with the enthusiasm of the students and so grateful that these students want to dedicate their future to helping people in receiving excellent healthcare. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to impact the next generation to have interest in healthcare. It is very rewarding! We can’t do this alone. We need each other, whatever the age.”

The PHESI program is one of many sector specific pathway institutes.  Currently under consideration, is the Technology Education Summer Institute.  “It is these short term, intensive, hands-on instructional experiences that really resonate with students today.”  As a pathway coordinator for the K12 Strong Workforce Program, it is my mission to support schools in their efforts to develop Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs that lead students to living wage jobs via community college Career or technical industry certification training programs, in key priority employment sectors. For more information, please contact Lisa Kelly, PhD, K-12 Pathway Coordinator serving the Feather River College District including Plumas and Sierra County K-12 institutions.

Plumas Health Careers Exploration Spring Institute students learn firsthand about a career in the medical field while working at Plumas District Hospital. Photo by Danielle Plocki

 

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