Hospital job shadowing gives students a taste of work in the medical field

posted on March 26, 2012

Seven Red Cloud seniors are learning firsthand the demands and thrills of life in a hospital setting. The four female and three male students are donning scrubs and name badges, and making multiple trips per week to the Pine Ridge Hospital. While at the facility, the students are working in five different departments; the operating room, radiology department, midwife clinic, outpatient floor, and the hospital lab. Over the course of the semester the students will rotate around, so that by the end of the school year, each of them will have spent time in all of the different areas of the facility.

The IHS (Indian Health Service) job shadowing partnership was started three years ago by high school science teacher Wendell Gehman. It was separate from the school curriculum originally, but now is part of a credited class; Anatomy II. The requirements for the course are rigorous, and the job shadowing work is in addition to the main academic aspects. Students must be seniors to take the class, and must have completed Anatomy I.

According to Kelleigh Huff, who is teaching the class and coordinating the partnership, the students are required to do a minimum of four hours per week at the hospital, and can do more than that if they wish (about half of them do). They need to keep a journal and write an entry for every time they work, and they have to do a research essay for each of the five hospital departments. Finally, they must write two reflective essays, one at the beginning of the semester and one at the end, examining such topics as why they want to go into the medical field, and where they see themselves in five years.

We spoke with some of the job shadowing students about their experiences so far, and their stories were compelling. Mariah Weston told us the following: “I’m currently working in the Midwife Clinic. I chose this area because I love babies, and I think pregnancy is very beautiful. I get to see these women that just found out that they are pregnant, and they are just glowing with joy. When I’m in the ultrasound room and I see the expression on a woman’s face when she sees her baby on the screen for the first time, it’s amazing. The moment when she finds out what she’s having is always the most fun. Sometimes it’s crazy to think I’m looking at the person inside of her, yet it is very cool at the same time.” Weston also spoke of her future plans;

“I plan to go to college, then get my masters in nursing and my midwifery degree. These experiences [working at the hospital] have just solidified my desire to be a midwife. It has also made me appreciate the beauty of pregnancy even more.”

Tayler Morgan explained her daily routine thusly: “I am in the Operating Room, observing general surgery. I go there in the morning, because that is when the surgeries are scheduled. First we have to change into our scrubs. Then I get to stand by and watch the entire surgery, from the moment they are put under anesthesia until they wake up afterwards.” Morgan then described the highlight of her work so far; “On the second day of the job shadowing, I got to see the laparoscopic removal of a gallbladder. [The surgeons] went in by the navel and cut and burned the damaged part of the gallbladder off, and then pulled it out. There were gallstones, which made it more difficult to remove.” She said that her job shadowing experience has changed her future plans somewhat: “I plan on attending SDSU to become a Registered Nurse. I had always been interested in working in the ER, but having experienced live surgeries, I’m not sure I would be able to handle that.”

Sierra Yellow Boy has also been having an instructional and enriching experience. She reports, “I am currently in the Outpatient Department. One of the most exciting things I have gotten to do was help with a toenail removal. I know that sounds gross, but it was actually quite interesting. We had the room set up with all types of medical tools, bandages, and other equipment. I found this exciting because the doctor let me put on gloves and help him. I didn’t feel like I was just watching.” As for her future aspirations, Yellow Boy stated, “My plan after graduating Red Cloud is to join the Army, and then attend a four-year college to become a pediatric nurse.”

Huff said that the primary benefit of the job shadowing program is that it gives students who have an interest in the medical field an opportunity to actually see the day-to-day routine of such jobs. In this way, they will have a much more informed perspective on the realities of this line of work. Huff told of how one student last year was certain that she wanted to go into the field of dentistry. After a few weeks working in the IHS dental clinic however, she realized that working on teeth was not at all what she had imagined. She decided that even though she still wanted to go into medicine, dentistry was not for her.

The first cohort of students who went through the job shadowing program are still in college, but the next few years will see these young adults entering the work force. It will be interesting to see which professions – particularly medical ones – they end up gravitating toward.