Before participating in Schneck Medical Center’s Health Career Discovery program, area middle and high school students might have had a career in a certain area of health care in mind.

After learning about a variety of hospital departments during the free three-day program, however, some of them may have been drawn to another area.

But that’s OK, said program coordinator Angie Cockerham, safety and outreach coordinator with the Seymour hospital’s human resources department.

Evaluations of the program in recent years revealed students wanted to learn about all areas of the hospital, and that’s what they received this year.

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“This was based on some research that I did and the evaluations to try something new this year, and it’s obviously working,” she said of attendance tripling this year.

More than 80 students from Jackson County and surrounding areas heard from a variety of physicians, technicians, administrators and nurses during the program, which lasted about four hours each day.

Some sessions were conducted in the Schneck Auditorium, while others involved the students walking to different areas of the hospital to see firsthand what goes on in a department.

On the first day, after hearing from Warren Forgey, the hospital’s president and chief executive officer, the students toured the hospital. They later visited the simulation lab and Jackson County Emergency Medical Services.

The second day featured presentations from internal medicine, infection prevention and information technology; a nursing panel; and a tour of the Don and Dana Myers Cancer Center.

The final session began with presentations by an OB/GYN physician and a labor and delivery nurse. Students then learned about diagnostic imaging by visiting that department and returned to the auditorium to hear about surgical services from a surgeon, an anesthesiologist and two technicians, who showed the different instruments they use.

They then walked over to the rehabilitation services building before returning to the hospital for a pizza party and receiving completion certificates.

Dr. Andrew Dick, an anesthesiologist at Schneck, said this was his third year being involved in the program. He said he likes interacting with the students.

“I get a lot of technical questions from my partners and patients, and these questions are a little bit more laid back and just kind of routine, like ‘What’s your day like?’ ‘How much money do you make?’ ‘How long does it take?’” he said.

“Fielding those types of questions is just completely different than my normal job, so that’s what I like,” he said. “If I can convince one to (get into health care) or two, that would be great.”

Showing the students what all the hospital has to offer is key, Dick said.

“I just think it’s important to see the breadth and depth of the different specialists and different careers that are available in health care and even in their own town,” Dick said. “It’s good to have (the program) at Schneck to show that even in a town of Seymour’s size, we have all of these different specialties and do complex procedures and have these specialized operations or highly trained physicians.”

Dick said it’s good for the hospital employees to share what they do on a daily basis.

“I think there’s a lot of mystery about what physicians do, and this is kind of pulling the curtain back on that, if you will, and saying, ‘This is what it takes, this is what your day looks like, this is what you’re doing kind of behind the curtains,’” he said.

“It’s important to show that because at least for me growing up, I had never had a surgery, so I had no idea what an anesthesiologist would do,” he said. “The only exposure that a lot of these kids have to physicians is a family practice doctor, so when they hear ‘doctor,’ that’s what they think of, and there are just a ton of other types of doctors.”

Cockerham, who also has been involved with the program for three years, said she appreciates her fellow hospital employees for taking time out of their day to educate area students.

“I send out a quick email, and they jump on it. They are happy to volunteer,” she said. “The physicians and everyone are so willing to help out, so I truly appreciate my co-workers.”

Dick said he likes having the opportunity to be a part of the program.

“In a lot of instances, I don’t necessarily think of myself as a role model or looked up to in some way,” he said. “But I feel like when I do this presentation, a lot of them do see me as a role model or something they can aspire to be, so that’s a good feeling.”

At the end of the program, the students receive an opportunity to apply for a job shadowing program at the hospital. That’s another part of Cockerham’s job.

“What I enjoy most is seeing the interest that we have in the young students in our community in health care,” she said.

With health care jobs always being in demand, Cockerham said it’s important to provide opportunities to learn about that field.

“I hope this can bring to them just some education and some knowledge in regards to what careers are out there in health care, and then they can take that back to their peers,” she said.

“They are all so attentive, they are all so respectful, and for middle and high school students, I think that says a lot,” she said. “To me, that says they are really interested in what we are giving them and showing them.”

Morgan Branaman and Grant Elliott, who both are 12 and will be seventh-graders at Brownstown Central Middle School in the fall, said they heard about the Health Career Discovery program through school and thought it would be good to check out.

“They brought papers to the office at school, and it was interesting. I for sure want to be in a health career,” Morgan said.

“I knew about it before the school had had it at the office because my grandma is a nurse at Urgent Care, and I’ve always been interested in health care,” Grant said. “I’m positive that’s what I want to do. The science and math behind it, I’m good at all of those subjects. It has just always been fascinating.”

Both students previously had interest in a particular health care profession, but after being involved in the program, their thoughts changed.

“I wanted to do OB, but now going to see all of the ultrasound and all of the CAT scans and stuff, I think I’m into diagnostic imaging. It’s really cool how they do that,” Morgan said.

“I was always interested in psychiatry, psychology, but now, OB/GYN sounds interesting,” Grant said.

They both said the program was a good experience.

“It allows me to see how these people do their jobs and if I like what they are doing,” Grant said.

Morgan said she’s interested in job shadowing or volunteering at the hospital when she gets a few years older.

“I didn’t know half the jobs that they showed us that exist at the hospital,” she said. “I would definitely recommend it to others.”

At a glance

For information about job shadowing opportunities at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, call 812-522-0118 or visit schneckmed.org/Careers/JobShadow.aspx.

You must be at least 14 years of age and have completed eighth grade to participate in the job shadowing program.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.