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Students tour hospital for career class

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

by Tess McEnroe, Valley Press

Six students from Thompson Falls High School toured Clark Fork Valley Hospital in Plains last Wednesday morning, as part their Medical Careers class.

The students were given a private look of the hospital and spent time in specialized areas and departments. For example, they went to the cardiopulmonary room, which handles heart and lung health, the laboratory, where they learned about microbiology, the clinic and surgery operating room.

"It is so important to get the exposure in the field you are interested in before you decide to go into it," said Danita Grossberg, a registered nurse and acute care manager at the hospital who gave the tour. "There are so many career choices in the medical field that being exposed to them helps you make informed decisions."

The students were able to see an electrocardiogram heart test, also called an EKG, and an ultrasound was performed on a volunteer patient when they toured the cardiopulmonary department. Nurses, respiratory therapists and cardiologist, Dr. Sharon Nichols, explained how to read the ultrasound. They were able to see how strong a heart is, while showing the ventricles and muscles inside of the heart.

"There are so many things you guys can do in this field while you're young," said Nichols. "You can become a junior search and rescue member at age 16, an emergency medical technician at 18 and start volunteering at hospitals now."

Taloni Dubois, the cardiopulmonary department manager and a registered respiratory therapist, explained the different machines and devices used to unclog a blocked airway, for example.

"We provide all of the home oxygen services for Sanders County and have also seen a huge increase in sleep related health problems such as apnea," said Dubois. "Wearing gloves is really important; people have body 'goo.'"

According to Nichols, the responsibilities of jobs increase in smaller hospitals and care facilities.

"Larger hospitals are a great place to start when you are done with school or still working on your degree because you nail down your basic skills and get tons of practice," said Nichols. "If you want the bigger picture of the medical world later on, then go into rural medicine. You will get to do it all at some point."

Tina Wheeler teaches the Medical Careers class. Wheeler is trying to become trained to teach an E.M.T. course at Thompson Falls High School as well. The course is a vocational, not a science class.

"This is the first semester we have had this course," said Wheeler. "This is a precursor to taking an E.M.T. class and we are hoping to make that happen too. They are really encouraged to also take as many science classes as possible, especially anatomy."

"The state is really pushing health sciences in high schools recently. There are so many directions you can go in medicine and I just want to expose the kids to as much of it as I can," said Wheeler.

The students also toured the lab where they donned lab coats and goggles, were able to look at specimens under a microscope, and learned about blood diseases.

"Handling blood can be dangerous," said Tom Olding, the lab manager. "Infectious diseases such as Hepatitis, HIV and others can be transmitted through blood by open wounds or dirty needles, for example."

After a lunch break the students spent time practicing suturing in the operating room and also saw what it would be like to work in a clinical setting.

The students had a range of medical career interests including a clinical psychiatrist, a dental hygienist, and an E.M.T.

The students will finish their Medical Careers class this spring, and hope they will be able to take an E.M.T. class at school next fall.

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