From chicken breasts to sutures

Published 9:51 pm Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sewing up a chicken breast may not sound like the kind of experience you’d want your surgeon to have, but it’s just the place to start if that surgeon is still a freshman in high school.

Students from area high schools took part this week in the fourth annual hands-on educational session presented in association with Sentara Obici Hospital. It was an opportunity for them to get some real-world experience in a hospital to help supplement the knowledge they’ve learned in various high school healthcare classes during the past year.

For most folks, the closest they’ll ever come to being a doctor or a nurse is to watch Scrubs or ER reruns on television, which is unfortunate, considering that healthcare is one of the few industries experiencing true growth amidst the nation’s economic decline.

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These students, however, have shown real interest in the field, as evidenced by their selection of classes that are designed to increase both their knowledge and their curiosity about health-related careers.

What many were missing, though, before they stepped into Obici this week, was a real understanding of what it’s like to work in a hospital. The program they participated in on Wednesday gave them “the sights, the feel, the smell of healthcare,” said Rose Mary Jones, the health occupations teacher at the high schools. With that knowledge they can now make educated decisions about whether to pursue such a career.

Apparently, the program has had some success, as some of the first students to participate four years ago have moved on to pursue such careers. It’s a long way from sewing up a chicken breast to stitching closed a knife wound in the emergency room. But it’s a good first step, and area healthcare students are blessed to have teachers and hospital employees who are willing to help them take it.