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High school students get real world healthcare experience with Community Hospital


High school juniors and seniors are getting a jump-start on their careers thanks to a partnership between the Munster school system and Community Hospital.

A new diploma, the New Graduation Pathway diploma, has different guidelines for graduation. An eighth grader now has to have a plan in place to take certain courses or an accredited program that leads them toward their career and better prepares them for work-based internship opportunities.

Like the other Northwest Indiana high schools, Munster High School is working on the new Graduation Pathways diploma ensuring that students complete coursework toward those requirements.

“Employability skills and workplace skills are necessary toward graduation requirements, so we established some internships for our students,” says Brad Docter, Career and Technical Education coordinator for Munster High School. “Two areas that we have career paths are engineering and healthcare. For our healthcare students, we work with Education Services at Community Hospital in Munster.”

Every day when school is in session five students from Munster High School come over to Community Hospital during two class periods (about an hour and one half). They are scheduled to one area for two weeks at a time, then rotate to a different area of the hospital. Five fields are offered including nursing (along with a variety of subcategories), lab, radiology, pharmacy, and biomed.

“We rotate our high school students and nursing students so they can see the different healthcare opportunities and how well we all work together,” says Jean Gardner, system director of Education Services, Community Healthcare System. “People feel comfortable here and that’s part of our retention efforts. We are doing everything we can to make this a positive experience. Going from ‘school to scrubs’ may help students figure now if this is what they want to do for their career so it has personal value as well.”

“I’ve been to the cath lab, post-anesthesia, the interventional radiology lab and quite a few different areas,” said senior Alyssa Strege. “I have enjoyed this experience because we got to see how each nurse approaches the same situation differently. It’s definitely so much more exposure than I was expecting. I didn’t think I would interact with a patient, but I actually got to see an angioplasty right behind the doctor and it was amazing.”

“The nurses, techs and support staff definitely go the extra step to explain to us what they are doing,” said Alexandra Vjestica. “We’re not even technically nursing students yet, just from the high school, but they are so kind and patient and treat us like peers. I want to further my education and become a nurse practitioner and become a neonatal nurse. This will help.”

Senior Christina Landeros said, “My mom is a nurse. She told me that this would be a really good learning opportunity. I like it a lot.”

With the initial success of the program, there are plans to expand the offering to more students in the fall. Community Hospital will be aiming to enroll up to seven students at the beginning of the school year, according to Gardner.

“Being in a hospital and experiencing the work environment is a great experience for students,” says Community Hospital CEO Lou Molina. “They are getting a firsthand look at what we do; something that they can put on a resume or college application. Hopefully, they will come back someday and be hired by Community Healthcare System.”

Interested in a Career in Healthcare?
For more information on career opportunities with the hospitals of Community Healthcare System, visit COMHS.org/careers and click on professional development.  

Community Healthcare System
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