For a class of Ketchikan High School juniors and seniors, shadowing local medical personnel in a variety of environments is all in a day's work.
The chance to shadow medical staff at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, Creekside Family Health Clinic and Optimum Fitness comes to students who enroll in David White's medical terminology class, a yearlong course at Kayhi that also offers three college credits per student.
In an email to the Daily News, White said that the program allows “students to go out into Ketchikan's medical community to experience a glimpse at what they might expect from a variety of different medical careers.”
“The kids request placement in a medical department or clinic which interests them for a 'block' of four weeks at a time,” White wrote. “They shadow in their departments two days each week on a rotating schedule during each block.”
At PeaceHealth, these rotations include stints in the speech pathology, anesthesiology, imaging, and labor and delivery departments. Students also are given the opportunity to take on rotations in the operating or emergency room, the long term care unit or in rehab therapy.
“Each student … keeps a journal of their shadowing visits, and returns to class to share their experiences with their classmates each week,” White said.
White reported that the students — whom he nicknamed “voc-medies,” for “vocational medic” — have watched the birth of a baby, observed operations, assisted with physical therapy and have drawn blood and taken vitals.
“The actual class, the medical terminologies part, it's kind of dry and it's kind of a book grind, and we discuss body systems and some of the procedures. … We try to look for things like that to jazz it up a little because the material in the book is having just the memorization, putting the term with the body system,” White explained when the Daily News visited his class early Monday afternoon. “So, fortunuately, there's been a lot of peripheral stuff that has kept us going.”
Students shared their experiences during their regularly scheduled class on Monday.
Many “voc-medies” said that the experience has been helpful as they prepare for their future careers — most of White's students are considering a career in the field.
White said a common reaction from students was “finding out that an occupation may be different from what they thought.”
Senior Laura Sherrill said she has “learned a lot from job shadowing.”
“I learned that there's a lot more behind the scenes than you think,” Sherrill said.
Sherrill's classmate Ashley Cyr said that “it helps us know if we actually want to do that as a career path.”
“It helps us to realize like, 'Oh, I'm scared to be here.' Well, then you won't work there,” Cyr said.
However, a few of the students aren't sure they want to go into the healthcare profession.
Senior Jared Valentine said he would rather pursue mechanical engineering than medicine.
“I think something that's actually kind of interesting is I was told by one of the nurses that a lot of orthopedic surgeons have a bachelor's in mechanical engineering, because they deal with mechanical parts and stuff like that,” Valentine added. “They're just building things for the body instead of things outside the body.”
As White noted, the students most enjoy when their shadowing time is exciting.
“We had the opportunity to watch a surgery,” senior Dearly Villaflor said. “It was a hernia repair. So it was nice watching it, being in the same room, as the surgeons and the nurses.”
“We were able to see the ending of the surgery, and it was cool to watch the guy come out of anesthesia,” Cyr added.
Cyr reported that she thought the most interesting part of the medical terminology class — which also includes learning about hearing and vision screenings, CPR, administering casts and drawing blood — was learning how to suture.
“I thought that was really cool, because that's what you do at the end of the surgery and it's like, 'Woah,'” Cyr said.
Student Amanda Dale said that being able to observe an open knee surgery was “really, really interesting.”
“It was a cool experience,” Dale said.
Jaredval Caguiat has had plenty of hands-on experience while job shadowing.
“In the ER, when it gets really busy, it's really fun because you get in on the action,” Caguiat explained. “I have lifted people, I've helped with operations, I have done vitals and stuff like that. Just general stuff like that is a huge learning experience for all of us, I think, because it also adds on to a sort of resume you can use later on in life, both in our career paths and everything else.”
Senior Sarah Palaruan agrees that the program doesn't only build practical skills — it has helped her become a better communicator.
“I think that's like the number one thing in the medical field, being able to build relationships with people you work with and also people you help,” Palaruan said.
Palaruan also enjoyed learning the practical aspects of the field.
“I thought those skills, I would learn them once I was in college, and I'm actually so surprised that I get to learn them here, now, while I'm still in high school,” she said.
While White said that the class can at times be dry, the students can apply their knowledge while they are on the floor at the hospital.
“Even if you're not pursuing a medical path beyond high school, just knowing the actual medical terms I think is really interesting,” Valentine said. “It's like speaking a new language and finally understanding what that language is saying.”
To future Kayhi students who take the class, Cyr cautioned that “there's a lot of bookwork that you have to keep track on, and lots of tests and stuff, but once you get to the job shadowing, it's worth it.”