Johnson Co. students get hands-on experience

From Staff Reports

   MOUNTAIN CITY -- Taking a break from her morning work in the Specialty Clinic at Johnson County Health Center, 18-year-old Ciara Smith said she is getting a different kind of education.
   "I like it a lot. I think it gives you a new kind of experience," Smith said of the Clinical Internship program she is taking through Johnson County High School. "It's better than working out of a book. That's for sure."
   For five years, JCHC has hosted students enrolled in the internship program in a variety of areas -- from the physical therapy department to the laboratory.
   "It's part of the Health Sciences Technology curriculum," Program Coordinator and JCHS Health Sciences Instructor Jeannie Taylor said of the program. "It's for anybody interested in the health field."
   As part of the program, each year about 15 JCHS students -- mostly seniors -- spend their mornings working in different clinical settings around Mountain City getting a first-hand look at life in the medical world.
   "It's usually during the second semester," Taylor said. "They go out during first period each day from early February to May."
   Students are given options of where they would like to work and what they would like to study. Some prefer to stay in one location during the entire semester while others choose to rotate offices for a more broad-based experience.
   For 1999 JCHS graduate Seth Brown, the program completely changed his future plans. The first student to take part in the clinical aspect of the curriculum, Brown recently graduated from East Tennessee State University with a degree in chemistry and is now headed to medical school.
   "I just got the word that I am accepted at Quillen," he said, referring to the James H. Quillen College of Medicine at ETSU. Speaking from the back of an ambulance while working his part-time job as an Emergency Medical Technician, this former county student said he wanted to be a music teacher, but the experience at JCHC made him decide on medicine.
   "It completely solidified my decision," he said, adding he worked in the Emergency Department at the health center during his semester in the Clinical Internship program. "I just fell in love with medical care then and haven't turned back since."
   That enthusiasm has continued as up-and-coming students become excited about the program and plan on it through their high school years.
   "I've been wanting to do this since I was little. I just like helping people," said 17-year-old Chassie Brown, who is working in the health center's ED for the semester.
   Brown said she requested to be in the program when she was a freshman and these first few weeks working in the ED have already made an impact on her future plans.
   "I wanted to be a doctor at first," she said. "But now that I understand what they go through, I'm probably going to go into the nursing field."
   The students provide their own scrubs -- or uniforms -- for the program and help medical professionals in their daily work.
   JCHC Administrator and CNO Lisa Heaton said hosting the students each year can play an important part in the educational process.
   "We hope the experience encourages these high school students to further their education in health care," Heaton said.
   The amount of exposure offered through the course sets it apart from other such programs, she said. Students are given months to gain a real insight into the day-to-day operations of a medical facility.
   "If we all had the time as kids to be able to shadow for the amount of time we host these students, some of us would have made different choices about our professions," the administrator said.
   It also exposes them to professional options available in medicine.
   "Instead of giving you the basic outlook of medical professions -- what most people think of as the doctors and nurses -- it gives you a more in-depth view. You see the physical therapists, the laboratory technologists, the radiologist and the paramedics," Smith said, adding there are many opportunities for learning. "If there is a procedure going on in a treatment area and the patient will let us, we go back there and watch it."