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Students go behind the scenes at hospital

Two years ago Aiden Duval’s father almost lost his life in a car accident. He survived, but months of painful rehabilitation followed.

The experience had a profound impact on Duval, now a 14-year-old Ashland High student, so for him the school’s first health care career day at Asante Ashland Community Hospital had a special, more personal meaning.

“They helped him a lot and he’s doing really good now,” Duval said of his father. “So I feel like I almost want to give that back and help other people with anything that happens to them.”

Duval was one of about 50 Ashland High students — all freshmen and sophomores — who took advantage of a two-day partnership between AHS and the local hospital designed to provide youngsters interested in the health care industry an inside look at what those jobs actually look like and the steps they will need to take in order to get there.

It was an eye-opening experience for some of the students, who bused to the hospital on Friday and Saturday morning for the five-hour excursion, which included presentations by 11 professionals whose expertise ranged from nursing (Susan Montgomery) to orthopedics (Dr. Hal Townsend) and just about everything in between.

“The students feel like they’re really receiving a special behind-the-scenes look, a real welcome from medical professionals who are willing to share their journey from high school to that career so that our students see all the possibility and potential that’s in front of them,” said Ashland High principal Michelle Zundel, who joined the students at the hospital. “And Asante Ashland Community Hospital has really rolled out the red carpet for our students. It’s an extraordinary commitment by them and it looks to be a wonderful day.”

Zundel was speaking after Dawn Dille welcomed the students to AACH and Montgomery touted the flexibility of nursing with a Powerpoint presentation. The presentations were thorough, covering the challenges of the profession, the rewards, pay, job requirements and so on. Presenters also talked about the education requirements and what sort of temperament would be best suited for the job.

Montgomery didn’t gloss over the day-to-day obstacles that nurses face on the job, but said it’s all worth it.

“You will be emotionally, intellectually and physically challenged, in the best way every day,” she said. “You have to love it and have a passion for it.

“Why are we here? The patient. And that’s really important to remember.”

At one point, Montgomery’s Powerpoint showed an image of several men and women going about the daily grind, one in a suit and tie, another sitting at a desk. The woman in the middle was dressed in blue scrubs commonly associated with nurses. When Montgomery asked which of the people pictured were nurses, the students were on to her: “All of them,” somebody said.

The profession’s versatility is an asset that’s often overlooked, Montgomery added. Then she provided several examples — a school nurse, a cruise ship nurse, a charge nurse.

“I was kind of surprised,” Ashland High freshman Rose Eschtruth Harrison said. “I didn’t know there were so many options for nurses, so that was really interesting.”

Each presentation was slated to eat 15 minutes out of the jam-packed schedule — the students arrived at 9 a.m. and boarded a bus headed back to AHS at 2 p.m. After Montgomery, Laura Jesswein talked about physical and occupational therapy, Rochele Anderson delivered a pharmacy presentation, Kendra Kohler talked respiratory therapy and Rick Landt discussed emergency medicine. Students also toured radiology and the wound center, listened to Jen Susi’s presentation about human resources and had a 30-minute question-and-answer session with five AACH employees.

Towsend’s presentation came near the tail end of the day. Then representatives from Southern Oregon University and Rogue Community College talked to the students.

Each student had to fill out an application to make the trip to AACH. Zundel said the program was limited to 50 students per day, but in the end nobody was turned away.

“I thought it’d be a fun and interesting experience to come here and kind of just check out how a hospital works,” freshman Kaitlyn Page said. “I’m going to be doubling up on science classes next year.”

“We’re laying more stone work each day for this and it’s a great opportunity, so I’m very pleased,” said McKael Kenfield, who teaches human anatomy at AHS and also made the trip Friday. “They’re going to see a plethora of people in different fields here. There are occupations that, when I came here, I never even knew existed.

“It’s just building that rapport and making them feel confident, being there for them and helping them make that connection. It’s not just about the high school. We want our kids to go out and find where they’re passionate. And we would love for them to stay here and blossom here in our community.”

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-776-4469 or jzavala@dailytidings.com.