High school seniors test medical careers in hospital internships | SteamboatToday.com

High school seniors test medical careers in hospital internships

Mike McCollum

— Steamboat Springs High School seniors interning at the Yampa Valley Medical Center may not be entrusted with a scalpel, but they are charged with plenty of responsibilities.

“I think it’s surprising how much opportunity they give you,” said senior Lizzy Stoll, who shadows a nurse in the day surgery department.

“I never thought they would actually let us watch a surgery,” she said. “There are limits, obviously, to what we can do, but we are there with them shoulder-to-shoulder. Not as their backup, but we help out in whatever way we can.”

Taking blood pressure, inserting intravenous tools and taking vital signs are some of the tasks the students perform.

Stoll said the television drama “ER” helped inspire her to the internship.

“I’ve always wanted to see a surgery because I watch the TV medical shows,” Stoll said. She said injuries from falling on the slopes or slicing a finger with a bagel knife are the norm at the small-town hospital in Steamboat Springs.

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“It’s funny because the emergency room is totally just kind of quiet and it’s not like TV where people are rushing around,” emergency room intern Jodie Clementson said.

Stoll and Clementson are two of nine high school seniors interning at the hospital as part of the high school’s semester-long College and Career Prep class.

Each student shadows a mentor, who is typically the head of the department, for two or three weeks before moving to another department in the hospital.

“My mentor has been totally awesome. She’s all about teaching. She fills me in on things I’m not too sure of,” Clementson said.

“All the people seem really eager to be here for us,” added Lauren Maria, a radiology intern. “They are excited about it, so you are excited about it.”

Kim Mayer, the interns’ academic adviser, said students must work about 3 1/2 hours a week and accumulate between 50 to 60 work hours during the semester.

“We have had students who have changed their intended major in college after their experience at the hospital,” she said. “It’s about getting outside the classroom, being exposed to real world problems, challenges and experiences.”

But some of the students are now getting a head start in the classroom before venturing into the workplace.

Interns learned skills such as taking blood pressure in the high school’s medical prep class, which began last year. The interns are the first batch of students who have completed the class to intern at the hospital.

Meyer said the number of medical interns tripled this year.

“We think it sparked student interest to further explore the medical field before college,” she said of the prep class.

Exploring options

In the hospital’s Sports Medicine Center, 16-year-old high school lacrosse player Gus Worden lies on a trainer’s table for an electro-stimulation session on his injured ankle.

Physical therapist Lance Pugh asks Worden how his rehab is progressing and pokes fun at his basketball skills. Shadowing Pugh is Worden’s classmate and medical intern, Cam Niswander.

“Right now, I pretty much shadow him and he explains how he goes and he explains things, like how Gus has an ankle injury and what we can do to rehab it and make it stronger,” Niswander said. “He takes me through what it is like to be a physical therapist and what it is like to be in this department.”

Pugh said the experience is an opportunity for students to get a head start on a medical career.

“It helps them get some kind of direction to go through college, and if you have a direction it increases the motivation for students,” said Pugh, who previously taught physiology and anatomy at the high school.

“They all don’t have to be doctors; the medical field is so broad,” he said. “They can get summer jobs being a lifeguard, working on the mountain in the winter, just preparing them to do any and all things, even knowing first aid, to be a positive member of the community.”

Niswander said he discovered an interest in medicine in Pugh’s science classes.

“It made me realize this could definitely be a cool career,” he said. “The main goal out of this internship is to find what I want to do in the medical field, because there are so many things I want to do.”

“This is also in our interest, as well, because we kind of see them as our future workforce,” said Mindy Fontaine, the hospital’s volunteer coordinator. “They’ll go off to college and decide whether radiology is for them, or some other discipline, and they get a two- or four-year degree and hopefully come back and work for us.”

Clementson said she also took the class to help narrow down what direction she will take in the medical field.

“You really get in here and get to see a lot of different things,” Clementson said.

The senior is eagerly awaiting her first opportunity to observe a surgery.

“You just can’t know for sure if this is something you want to do until you see it for yourself,” she said. “But yeah, it’s nothing like what you see on TV.”