A day in the life of a high school student doesn’t normally include suturing, intubation, or neck immobilization training.
However, for a group of 46 students from rural schools in central Alberta, the learning was outside the classroom and – in some cases – inside a set of pig lungs.
High school students from Hughenden Public School, Provost Public School, and Saint Thomas Aquinas School gathered at Provost Health Centre recently to attend the RhPAP-sponsored Rural High School Skills Event, aimed at bringing up the next generation to consider a career in rural health care.
RhPAP Rural High School Skills Days
RhPAP offers support to rural Alberta community attraction and retention committees to partner with the local health facility and high school(s) in hosting a rural high school skills day in the community.
The interactive day offers high school students a hands-on opportunity to engage in common health-care activities. Students can also speak with the instructors about health-related careers in the community, health-care provider job experiences, and the educational requirements for specific health-care careers. The intent of the high school skills day event is to encourage local students to consider a career in rural health care and learn about the local opportunities available.
“There’s a lot of other jobs behind the scenes that you don’t think of… that are great opportunities for people.”
Barb Hawkens, Organizer
The “way of the future”
Gary Duffett, Economic Development Officer for the Town of Provost, first heard about RhPAP’s initiatives at a conference in Banff, and contacted his area consultant, Colleen Lindholm, about getting a similar event off the ground in his town.
“This is the way of the future,” Duffett said, adding that he knew Provost had a “top notch facility” and wanted to do something for local students. “And here we are.”
He, along with the rest of the committee organizing this event, credits RhPAP and Lindholm for the direction and support they provided in helping this event come to fruition.
Exposure to options
Barb Hawkens, one of the organizers and a member of her local school’s Parent Council, said she told one student that perhaps the day might help them decide that health care isn’t what they want to do – and that’s fine too – but at least it gives them exposure to more of their options.
Over the course of the day, the students began asking very targeted questions, including what education they might need for a career in health care or where they could get their start.
“They’re really starting to be more interested in thinking about different things,” she said.
Opportunities beyond the front line
Unique to this skills event was the early tour of the hospital, where the students saw everything from laundry, to maintenance, to materials management.
“There’s a lot of other jobs behind the scenes that you don’t think of… that are great opportunities for people,” Hawkens added.
Tara Weinkauf, administrative assistant with Alberta Health Services, said the goals of the event are really to raise awareness, to get the students into the mindset of rural health care, to encourage them to spread the word to their friends in other rural settings, and – eventually – to bring them back home once they’ve graduated.
“If I had th[is] opportunity, I might have thought about being a physician a little bit sooner…”
Dr. Renee Deagle
Dr. Renee Deagle had the opportunity to teach the students suturing and remarked that some of the students seemed to have a natural gift.
“Some of them caught on super fast, which was good to see,” she said. “It was fun.”
While she said she did not have a similar opportunity in high school, she said it would have been great to have seen all her options before she graduated.
“If I had th[is] opportunity, I might have thought about being a physician a little bit sooner,” she said.
A big hit with the students
The participating students all had great feedback on the experience.
Wyatt Ford, a Grade 12 student from Hughenden Public School, said he had not previously considered a career in health care, but says it is a viable option if he decides to take a different path than what he has already chosen.
“I’d probably go rural if I did do it,” he said.
Payton Manning, in the same class as Ford, said her favourite part of the day was anything hands on – which included suturing, intubation, and inflating the pig’s lungs.
“I really enjoyed it,” she said, adding she is going into nursing and wanted to get a jumpstart on the learning.
Alysa Bolz, who attends Grade 11 at St. Thomas Aquinas School, said it was cool to see what nurses actually do, and would “100 per cent recommend it” to others to attend, while Ashlyn Landmark, a Grade 11 student from Provost Public High School, said the event clarified the difference between some of the jobs she had been considering for her own future career.
“Thanks to RhPAP, really,” said Duffett. “Our committee is already speaking about the [post]-secondary school program and maybe looking at that, and we’re hoping that this is going to be an annual event if we can do that.”