These high school students learn what it means to be a doctor

Staff writer

A handful of students at a local private school are learning what it takes to work in the health field.

Walsingham Academy has partnered with Riverside Doctors’ Hospital Williamsburg to give four students interested in a career in health care a chance to test out their scrubs.

Walsingham Upper School Health and Student Life teacher Kim Davenport teaches the practicum course. She and Carrie Karnes, Riverside’s community/volunteer manager, oversee the program.

“This program with Riverside now is the most involved, most expansive practicum we’ve been able to put together,” Davenport said.

Walsingham Academy saw a need to expand hands-on classes for their students, Davenport said, especially in anatomy. The school had several graduates pursue health careers in college who said it would have been helpful.

The students, all juniors and seniors, were selected by Davenport after an application process through the school; they are at different medical departments in the hospital Monday through Thursday during their hour-long first period.

For the first quarter of the year, students stayed in the classroom and learned about medical terminology, professionalism in the workplace and interviewing skills before beginning their rotation at the hospital.

The program, which runs from October to May, allows students to shadow clinicians in four different Riverside departments: outpatient physical therapy, surgical, emergency and outpatient radiology.

The students receive quarterly grades on anatomy, medical terminology and professionalism in the workplace. During the practicum, the students are expected to keep a detailed journal. At the end of the year, they will complete a project on their experience.

“Each director in the four primary areas came up with their own program,” Karnes said. “So the students would get to be involved and learn about those four areas of our hospital.”

Karnes said the students not only observe, but they are involved in hands-on things like stocking supplies and helping out the clinicians in each department. They may observe a surgeon scrubbing in, or a radiologist reading an X-ray or performing an MRI.

Senior Maggie Menoni said the practicum has inspired her to go to school to become a physician assistant.

“I can tell they really want me to learn. If nothing is going on in one section in the hospital, they’ll move me to another to make sure I’m always seeing something,” Menoni said. “Right now, I’m in physical therapy and they just take me under their wing and introduce me to the patients and I feel like I’m one of them.”

Karnes said the hospital is excited to be a community partner, and she has received positive feedback from patients and the management team, as well as from the students.

“This is the first time we have had any students under 18 in our building,” Kernes said. “It’s been very positive. I think everyone has gotten a lot out of it.”

Mentors at Riverside are able to share what their jobs really look like: the benefits and the challenges, Davenport said. And it gives students the opportunity to shape their futures.

“It just takes book knowledge and it just puts it to life,” Davenport said. “They’re in the operating room, they’re seeing first hand what it means to be a nurse, what it means to be a technician, what it means to be the doctor.”

Martin can be reached at sararose.martin@vagazette.com or on Twitter at @SaraRoseMartin.

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