Students learn about health care careers

studentMINOT, N.D.: Future health care providers are receiving valuable training in Minot before they’re even out of high school.

Long-time instructors Brenda Demke and Mary Keller said there are about 110 students in the health careers program at Minot High School-Magic City Campus, with even more students signed up for the classes next year.

In the first year of the program, students are in class for two hours a day; the second year, they are in class for one hour a day, along with experience job shadowing out in the community. During the course of the eight weeks, students will have experience job shadowing in eight “health experience” areas.

With more than 200 clinical job sites available to students, students might find themselves job shadowing a dental technician, a veterinarian, or a practitioner of alternative or traditional medicine.
Keller and Demke said the first year of the health careers program provides kids with a snapshot of what it might be like to work in a health care field; the second year is more like a movie trailer.

Before they go out on a job shadowing experience, health careers students obtain CPR certification and are well versed in the need for confidentiality and become certified in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Students in the advanced health careers class also have the option of taking a test to become certified nursing assistants, which is a gateway to many health careers.

Keller and Demke said when they’re doing job shadowing, the students are not treated as teenagers but as health care professionals. Students do not go out on a job shadowing experience until they have been trained to work at entry level and can be of assistance.

Local health care providers appreciate the care that goes into training the high school students and have told Keller and Demke that their students are among the best high school students they see doing job shadowing.

“Without the amount of community support we have, we could not run this program,” Keller told the Minot Daily News.

Keller still works part-time as a registered nurse in the emergency room at Trinity Hospital on the weekends and also as a cardiac/rehab nurse during her summer vacation.

“My husband is very understanding,” said Keller, who likes to keep busy.

“Mary is a high-energy person,” Demke said.
“I get a lot done,” Keller said.

Demke worked as a radiology technician and still keeps up her certification, though she no longer works in that capacity.

Demke said when she did work as a radiology tech, she sometimes mentored high school students and enjoyed it so much that she decided she wanted to teach students as well.

Both women have obtained their teaching certification. Keller has been teaching the health careers class since 1990 and Demke is in her 19th year of teaching health careers.

Their past professions help them as teachers at Minot High, since they know so many people in the health care field and make a point of continuing to stay current in the most recent advances in health care.

Over the years, they’ve seen many of their past students go on to careers in health care. Former students have gone on to become nurses, medical doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists, certified nursing assistants, radiology technicians or mental health workers.

Sometimes students may not think they’re suited for a particular health care career, but Keller and Demke can persuade them to try job shadowing in a different area.

A student who is squeamish about blood might have no problem as an addiction counselor, for example. A student who starts out being interested in physical therapy might find that she is more interested in pharmacy.

The job shadowing experience can serve as a motivator for students who might not realize how much knowledge is required to go into a particular field. Students become more aware of the need to buckle down in math and science classes, Keller and Demke said. The students are aware that health care is a field that is growing and where there are job opportunities.

After all these years, Keller and Demke both also still enjoy working with the students.
“It’s the kind of job that you can’t believe you get to come and do,” Keller said. -AP

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