High School Program Offers Glimpse into Health Professions

Internship offers real-world experience in health care

Uchighschoolinterns march2010

Internship offers real-world experience in health care

This spring, 13 high school seniors from University City (UC) High School are receiving an unforgettable educational opportunity outside the walls of their campus. Each Tuesday afternoon for 14 weeks, the students will participate in clinical internships at four Scripps Clinic locations in San Diego.

Scripps Center for Learning & Innovation, in partnership with UC High School, launched a semester internship this year in an effort to reach out to high school seniors interested in pursuing health care careers. The internships are part of a two-semester health essentials elective for 12th graders wanting real-world experience in health care.

“We started the health essentials program this year because our principal Mike Price, along with administration, realized the increasing demand and favorable job outlook in health sciences,” said Ellie Vandiver, BSN, MEd, clinical instructor at UC High School. “This program exposes our students to experiences in an actual clinical setting, something they can’t receive in classroom teaching alone.”

To receive a broad medical experience, the seniors will rotate through various departments—including dermatology, radiology, ambulatory surgery, ophthalmology, internal medicine and orthopedics—and will be required to write weekly papers on their experiences for a grade. A typical day for the students will consist of shadowing a professional for the day, sitting in on management and executive team meetings, assisting on department projects, and greeting family members on the units. The students are then graded on their field experiences

“Each of our internship programs are tailored to create a unique experience for the participating student. The UC High School internship allows students exposure to our health care operations at Scripps Clinic. It is a great compliment to the curriculum the students receive in their health care courses,” said Joelle Cook, manager of talent development and academic programs at Scripps. “Everyone learns in this program, including Scripps. It’s a win-win for both the organization and the students.”

An opportunity to narrow career focus

Jeanine Walter, 17, was one of the first students to enroll in the program. A senior at UC High School, Walter has already been accepted to the University of Michigan’s nursing program, one of the top-ranked programs in the country.

“When I was registering for classes last year, I was super excited to see that there was an internship program in health care,” said Walter, whose father, Dr. Joseph Walter, is a Scripps dermatologist. “I know I want to be a nurse and do something within a hospital, but I wasn’t sure exactly what area. This experience is helping me make those decisions.”

Nu Pham, 17, also has an interest in health care, but isn’t quite sure if she wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps and be a nurse.

“My mom works at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla and always tells me wonderful stories about nursing,” said Pham, whose mother, Thanh Pham, is a cardiac cath lab nurse. “I don’t know if nursing is for me, so I’m hoping this program will help expand my knowledge of different careers in health care.”

With the internship nearing its half-way mark, many of the seniors are beginning to receive their college acceptance letters and are focused on next steps.
Kyle Chuang, 18, has been accepted to San Diego State University’s kinesiology program and although he’s enjoyed this experience, he’s also looking forward to college.

“My goal is to be a physical therapist, but I’ve really enjoyed the diversity of what I’ve experienced so far, particularly in the lab,” said Chuang. “In the lab you see what’s happening within someone’s body – from tape worms to large tumors. I know I still want to pursue physical therapy, but I think the internship has provided me with a better perspective.”

Benefiting our community and our country

The internship is not fun and games for the students. The Health Essentials internship includes a semester of extensive course work, which UC High School health teachers developed in partnership with Project Lead the Way (PLTW), the nation’s largest nonprofit provider of middle and high school education programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

More than 300,000 students in nearly 3,500 schools across the country participate in PLTW curriculum – whether biomedical sciences or engineering. The biomedical curriculum, started in 1997, consists of a sequence of four courses that present a broad foundation in science and health care. Students also gain an awareness of the social, legal and ethical issues surrounding technological advances related to the biomedical sciences.

“This is the best curriculum I have ever worked with,” said Vandiver. “The students are engaged and the educational material is rigorous. But when you add the internship component, we’re giving our students a real-world foundation that most other high school programs don’t provide.”

Although 10 of the 20 fastest growing occupations in the US are in health services, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services the shortage of qualified health care candidates is not meeting the demand. Scripps senior vice president of human resources Vic Buzachero hopes the internship program will expand the pipeline of those pursuing health care professions.

“By supporting these academic programs, we are investing in our kids, our community, and therefore our health care system,” said Buzachero. “We want to do our part to help meet the demands of our country and our community, and spur further interest and excitement for the industry. If these students are our future in health care, I feel reassured that our country will be in good hands.”

With more than 50 students already signed up for next year’s health essentials internship, more than triple the enrollment size from last year, Vandiver is seeing the increased interest health care careers from her students and feels confident about the future.

“The community has been looking for a health-related outreach program to be more involved with the schools, and programs like this meet that need,” said Vandiver. “Through this curriculum, we are providing future career opportunities, direction and perspective to our students. San Diego needs health care workers, and Scripps is helping us meet that demand.”