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For the health of it

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Posted: Monday, December 29, 2008 10:00 pm

Britney Mann patiently sits in the waiting room listening for her name to be called. She has a stomach ache and is hoping the doctor can tell her why.

After she gets checked in at the front desk, medical assistant Jessica Menchavez takes her height and weight and escorts her to an examination room where nurse Sarah Flores will check her vitals and ask a few preliminary questions.

We've all been through the process, but probably not in an office like this. It's located in a Galt High School classroom as part of the school's health academy, and the medical staff are seniors preparing for future careers.

On a recent day, the two dozen students in the career technical class taught by Steve Justice are role playing with real thermometers and blood pressure cuffs.

Many of the seniors have been enrolled in the Health Academy for three years. In 10th grade, they started out learning about different jobs "to see if the medical career is something you want to do," said Justice, who has been teaching classes for a year and a half.

Justice is a trained licensed vocational nurse from the military. When marriage brought him to Galt, he decided to go into teaching because he's always wanted to be a mentor.

Senior Genna Hoeven was one of those students two years ago who didn't know what she wanted to do after high school.

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"So I enrolled in the Health Academy and stayed to the third year because I enjoyed it," she said. "Now I know what I want to be: an X-ray tech because I like photography and the medical field, so they go together."

Edith Crawford, assistant superintendent of curriculum, said the program is successful because of the dedicated staff whose teachers instruct with an integrated curriculum.

"The theme is held among all these different classes," she added. Subjects including English, world history and social studies, chemistry and anatomy are taught with a medical focus. In history class, for example, the students will study a historic health epidemic in a foreign country.

Academy coordinator Mike Erwin, who teaches the English component, echoed Crawford's sentiments.

"Our Health Academy helps foster student success by limiting class sizes so teachers can spend more time with individual students. Teachers work collaboratively, planning a variety of integrated lessons," he said, adding that students also get an opportunity to hear guest speakers from the health community and participate in a variety of health-related field trips.

"This 'small school' concept has been proven to increase student achievement. Students are more fully engaged in the learning environment," Erwin added.

The program is similar to the Agriculture Academy at Galt High and Lodi High School's Apple Academy, which prepares students for teaching careers.

In 11th grade, the students attend nursing camp and in 12th, medical terminology is added to the course work. Many study with homemade flash cards.

Upperclassmen also have the opportunity for an internship in their field of choice.

"The goal being, you find out early if it's something you want to do, without spending a lot of money," Justice said.

Galt High School Health Academy by the numbers

100 students currently enrolled in program.

80 enrolled last school year.

3 grades classes are open to, including sophomores, juniors and seniors.

2 dummies, also known as "sims" or simulators, used in the classroom.

News-Sentinel staff

Mann, a senior, enrolled in the Health Academy because she wants to become a veterinarian. She's already volunteering at an office in Davis, but is excited about an internship in the new year.

"It will be like going to work everyday," Mann said, adding that her favorite new skill is taking blood pressure. "It makes you feel like you're official."

In addition to getting the hands-on experience, students learn math skills specific to the medical field, said Justice, who wears his burgundy scrubs to school right alongside his students.

"If they know that, they already have a leg up," he added of job-search tools.

Each year, the academy students compete against similar organizations in competitions like who can perform the best cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.

Two years ago, they moved onto nationals. Menchavez, who wants to be a nurse practitioner, said the best part about the Health Academy is learning new things and attending conferences to demonstrate what has been learned. When she graduates in the spring, the student will receive a special sash showing she was in the Health Academy all three years.

"It helps us prepare for college," she said of the classes. She's also been CPR certified for the last two years. "I feel like I'm prepared for a lot of things in life."

Although Flores, also a senior, has only been enrolled in the Health Academy since the fall, she feels she's already learned a lot.

"It's given me a lot of knowledge about the medical field and what jobs are out there."

She plans on becoming a nurse.

In the last year, there have been several changes to the program with a 12-year history at Galt High. Now, thanks to an agreement with Sutter Health Hospital in Elk Grove, juniors and seniors get real front and back office experience in a doctor's office.

In addition to spending two class periods with one another in the mock doctor's office learning, the students go weekly to practice the skills they've learned in class and are treated as real employees, right down to the drug testings, according to Crawford.

"If our students can pass the test after this, they will be able to enter the career field right after graduation," Superintendent Tom Gemma said of medical assistant job experience.

Those who graduate from the program will receive a certificate.

"And it doesn't end there," Crawford said. "Many go on to college and careers after that."

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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1 comment:

  • posted at 3:08 am on Tue, Dec 30, 2008.

    Posts:

    What a great program. More like this are needed.

     

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