With all of the careers available in health care today, it can be daunting for young students to think about which one might interest them the most.
Students are familiar with doctors, surgeons and nurses, but they may not know much about people who operate X-ray and ultrasound machines, those who treat athletes with sports injuries or those who run tests on blood and tissue samples.
It takes all kinds of people doing different jobs to run a hospital, from those who make sure all of the technology is working to people who prepare meals for patients to those who clean rooms. There also are jobs for people interested in human resources and financial accounting.
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That’s why Schneck Medical Center in Seymour hosts its annual Health Career Discovery Program to give middle and high school-aged students a way to learn about the many areas of health care and what they have to do to prepare for a future in the medical field.
On Wednesday and Thursday, around 40 students from schools in Jackson, Jennings, Scott and Washington counties spent the day at the Seymour hospital listening to speakers and participating in hands-on learning in different departments.
Breakout sessions included pediatrics, rehabilitation, nursing, cancer services, surgery, diagnostic imaging, emergency services, the lab and orthopedics.
One of the highlights of the experience was seeing a simulated code where hospital staff acted out an emergency drowning scenario.
On the second day, students took a tour of the hospital and learned about educational opportunities in health care offered through Ivy Tech Community College and Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus and the hospital’s job shadow program.
Lena Ledford, 12, of Salem attends East Washington Middle School and learned about the program from her mother.
“She thought it would be good for me,” Ledford said.
And it was, as Ledford decided she is interested in pediatrics after a presentation Wednesday from Dr. Richard DeVuyst.
“That was fun. I think I would like working with kids,” she said. “But not as a doctor, maybe nursing.”
But just as importantly, Ledford also learned what she didn’t like.
“I don’t think I could work at the cancer center,” she said. “They talked about losing patients, and I think that would be too sad.”
Overall, Ledford said it was interesting and helpful to hear about each job from the people who dedicate their lives to the field every day.
“I learned a lot of things that I didn’t know already,” she said.
During a presentation by Lonnie McCool and Rita Hollen from the diagnostic imaging department, Ledford even volunteered to put on a lead apron and glasses to model the protective gear worn by patients undergoing radiography.
“It’s a lot heavier than it looks,” Ledford said.
McCool is the picture archiving and communications system coordinator, and Hollen is the director of the department.
“We will do right around 60,000 imaging procedures this year,” McCool said. That includes 6,000 mammograms.
Because of the high demand for radiography, the job market is very favorable, he said. But you have to keep up with the constant changes in technology.
“You have to be dedicated to continuous learning to do a job like this,” he said. “Things change so drastically. We used to do film, and now, it’s all digital.”
Besides X-rays, mammograms and CT and MRI scans, the department also does ultrasounds.
Although most people think of babies when they think of getting an ultrasound, McCool said seeing babies is only a fraction of the ultrasounds performed at Schneck.
“We actually ultrasound more gall bladders than babies,” he said.
During his talk, McCool also showed different examples of radiography images and explained them. At the end, he had the students guess what objects were in a jar by looking at an X-ray.
Tiara Lopez, 13, will be an eighth grader at Seymour Middle School this fall. She heard about the program through school.
She already has in mind that she wants to be a cardiothoracic surgeon, a medical doctor who specializes in surgical procedures mainly of the heart, lungs and esophagus.
“I love the aspect of helping people and being able to save someone’s life to give them a second chance,” she said.
Lopez said her grandparents had heart problems, and that’s why she has an interest in the field.
She enjoyed Dr. Amanda Dick and Dr. Andy Dick’s presentation on surgical services.
“It was neat seeing behind the scenes,” she said. “It’s not what you see when you watch TV.”
The program was a good way to get an idea of what being a surgeon would be like.
“I got a glimpse of what my future career could be,” she said.
Lopez said she also gained an appreciation for everyone at the hospital.
“You get to see how hard it is to work here,” she said.
This year’s program was shortened from five half-day sessions to two full days to better accommodate students’ summer schedules, said Jaclyn Williams, a human resources generalist at Schneck who organizes the program.
“We thought if we could get the same number of hours of information in just fewer days, then maybe it could work better,” she said.
That seemed to be the case, as attendance was up this year, she said.
“We took all the feedback from last year and tried to make it more interactive,” she said. “And we let them pick which sessions they wanted to attend, too.”
Afterwards, several students showed an interest in signing up for the hospital’s job shadowing program.
Williams said the Health Career Discovery Program helps the hospital in a couple of ways.
“It’s to our benefit as far as building a pipeline of future employees,” she said. “And then just exposure to Schneck in general.”
Williams said students were surprised by what they learned.
“Oftentimes, you ask a student, ‘What do you want to be?’ Well, they want to be a nurse or they want to be a doctor because their mom was a nurse or their aunt was a nurse,” she said. “It’s only what they know, so they are surprised by the possibilities out there.”