Kids get a look at different types of jobs that it takes to make a hospital work in 10-week course

OUTLOOK PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - Students Joy Pierett and Alyssa look over a memory book the hospital gave them when they completed the free 10-week Student Healthcare Leaders program.As a child attending Portland Adventist Academy, Terry Johnsson was required to spend a week working alongside — "shadowing" — someone.

He showed up at the Adventist Medical Center's chaplain's office in Southeast Portland asking to shadow the chaplain, an unusual request. The chaplain's secretary was extraordinarily welcoming, showing the youngster around the hospital.

"That planted a seed," said Johnsson.

Decades later, serving as the hospital's executive director of mission integration, Johnsson wanted to give other students a similar experience, so he launched a program to get high school students familiar with the wide variety of jobs in health care.

Most doctors and health care providers, he said, make the decision to go into the field by the time they are sophomores in high school.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: ADVENTIST MEDICAL CENTER - Joy Pierett handles a pig heart during one of her rotations at the Adventist Medical Center. The new program, Student Healthcare Leaders, meets for two-and-a-half hours after school once per week for 10 weeks. Students get behind the scenes, participate in hands-on experiences at the hospital and talk with leaders in various medical professions.

The program started as a pilot in the 2017-18 school year with students from Portland Adventist Academy, but will open to all students in East Multnomah County starting next school year.

The students in the free program rotate between physical therapy, occupational therapy, the laboratory, nursing, surgery, the cardiac unit, administration, the nutrition department, information technology and imaging.

The hospital provides an evening meal before the program and can help out with transportation if students need it.

"Our program is unique too, in that there is no GPA requirement," Johnsson said. "It's important (in considering an application, but if a kid has a passion," that is a major consideration.

Gresham resident Joy Pierett, a senior at the academy, who participated in the program this school year, enjoyed the experience.

"I am biased toward nutrition. I've always been intrigued with nutrition and I already work in the kitchen at the hospital."

Pierett explained that each week the students "tour the assigned department and then learn about how the people in the department got into the positions they are in, what they do and why they like it."

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: ADVENTIST MEDICAL CENTER - Alyssa shares a joke with Dr. Wesley Rippey, the chief medical officer at Adventist Medical Center when she graduated from the program. Despite her interest in nutrition, Pierett was also fascinated with her surgery rotation. The students were allowed to try their hand operating a highly-sophisticated robotic surgery device using the familiar classic board game, "Operation."

The students examined the various surgical tools and learned their purposes and how the surgical suite was specially ventilated to blow germs away from patients.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: ADVENTIST MEDICAL CENTER - The Student Healthcare Leaders program is the brainchild of Terry Johnson, Adventist Medical Centers executive director of mission integration. Pierett decided surgery wasn't a career option for her, because "it takes like 14 million years" to become a surgeon.

Gresham resident Alyssa, a freshman at Adventist who did not want her last name used, was most interested in the laboratory rotation.

"There are so many different things you can do in the lab," she noted, adding she was surprised by her time in administration. "It was interesting learning why they decided to do that. They are passionate about what they are doing.

"All the departments were so passionate, every single one of them," she added.

The students are not the only beneficiaries of the program. The hospital mentors also get a lot out of it, Johnsson said.

"This had made them rethink their jobs and remember 'why I got into this job.'"

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