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Real-life classroom

Haley Aaron
Special to the Enquirer

For students enrolled in Hartselle High School’s medical professions program, a “typical” day is anything but average.

Seniors who participate in the medical internship class at Decatur Morgan Hospital may ride along as an ambulance responds to an emergency or visit the hospital at six a.m. to observe a delivery and birth. Through these experiences, students prepare for careers in a number of medical and veterinary fields.

While students have the opportunity to test their skills in a classroom lab equipped with hospital beds and equipment, there are many experiences that can’t be replicated in the lab. Students currently enrolled in the internship class said that the ability to interact with patients is invaluable.

“When we’re in the lab we’re working with students, but at the internship we’re working with actual patients,” senior Brit Douthit said.

Although students can emulate hospital conditions in the lab, role-playing with student patients does not provide the same experience as clinical experience.

“When we’re in a lab setting, we try to role play; they have different patient scenarios that they do but they’re doing this with their friends,” instructor Lynne Shelton said. “When they go to the hospital they’re out of their comfort zone because these are strangers that they’re having to interact with.”

Shelton encourages her students to interact with people outside of the classroom in order to become more comfortable taking to patients.

The internship program provides more than a chance to experience the working conditions of medical professionals and gain experience interacting with patients, nurses and doctors. It also provides students with the opportunity to bolster their applications to college medical programs.

“When they go to make an application to a professional program like nursing school or physical therapy school they have to show documentation of unpaid job shadowing hours as part of their admission process,” Shelton said. “All of the nursing schools require you to have job shadowing hours and it’s not just a small amount either, it can be up to 90 hours that you’ve job shadowed and these hours that they’re doing now can count towards that, so they have a jump on their peers.”

Students are eligible to enter the medical professions program as sophomores or juniors. Enrolled students take two courses an introductory class and a clinical class that allows students to shadow medical professionals at Decatur Morgan Hospital and a number of other sites throughout the county.

The introductory course, foundations of medical professions, addresses the safety and legal concerns relevant medical professionals and prepares students to participate in the internship class. The program culminates in the medical professions internship class where students have the opportunity to gain internship experience two days a week.

Current internship students said that the experience had allowed them to consider a number of career opportunities before entering college.

“We get a chance to see if we actually want to do this, before we choose our major and then get to where we don’t want to do it anymore,” senior Bria Wilson said.

Other students who entered the program with a general interest in medicine say the class has encouraged them to consider specialized professions.

“I want to specialize,” senior Ivana Ellis said. “I know I want to be a CRNA or specialized to a certain unit. I don’t want to just be a generalized nurse.”

All of the students in Shelton’s current internship class expressed an interest in pursuing medical careers after graduation.

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