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Health Science Students Explore Career Areas

Yunisha Shashankar watches as a CT tech works.Going into her senior year, Sherman High School student Yunisha Shashankar had her eyes set on becoming a doctor, and being selected for rotations at Wilson N. Jones Regional Medical Center (WNJ) was a great way to explore opportunities.

“I knew I wanted to go into a medical career since I took my health science class when I was a freshman,” Shashankar said. “This class has been really eye-opening.”

However, as she rotated through different departments, Shashankar was drawn more to the laboratory, where technicians tested blood and other samples for diseases or health problems.

“I’ve always been interested in science,” she said. “I never knew what kind of equipment they used to test, and after my experience there, I found I really enjoyed it.”

Then it occurred to her: she could become a medical researcher, diving into cures or causes of different types of diseases and illnesses. And she owed her epiphany to her practicum.

“This class shows how the hospital operates for the benefit of the patient,” said Debra Elk, health science instructor. “It’s a great way to get their feet wet.”

Shashankar is one of 16 students in Elk’s health science practicum class, and they all rotate through departments, like radiology, surgery or the emergency room.

Vel Chin and Emily Barnes“I have another student who wants to be a nurse anesthetist, so they can go down to the operating room and talk to the anesthetist there,” Elk said. “It helps students get a better feel about what specialty they want to choose.”

Students mostly observe healthcare workers in action, but they also do small assignments like taking vital signs, helping a patient walk or bringing patients water.

In any time between tasks or patients, Shashankar said she talked with workers about advice they had such as their approach to college or applying to jobs. In her observation, Shashankar has also learned how to respond to emergencies.

“I saw how mature and level-headed you need to be in the ER,” she said. “We’ve had people come in not breathing or unconscious, and I saw how the doctors and nurses handled it.”

WNJ has partnered with the high school to provide practicum opportunities and even scholarships for years, said Cheryl Brandon, Volunteer and Patient Experience Coordinator at WNJ. Sometimes, students even return to work there.

“One of Sherman High School graduates works in our physical therapy department now, and it’s fun to see them enjoying their work,” Brandon said. “It’s great that the hospital can offer direction and guidance to Sherman students.”

Shashankar encouraged other SHS students who are interested in the medical field to apply for the practicum, calling it a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“There are so many options available here,” she said. “I didn’t have to wait until college to figure out what career area or specialty I wanted to pursue. Practicum class is also a hands-on way of learning more about what you’re interested in.”