High school students seeing their future in healthcare through Wesley observation program

Wesley relaunched the observation program last fall with expanded offerings to students, as healthcare looks to meet need for staff.
High school students seeing their future in healthcare through Wesley observation program
Published: May. 21, 2023 at 7:15 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The healthcare field is working to bring in a new generation of workers.

For Wesley Healthcare, that’s starting by reaching out to high school students.

Health Science Shadowing Coordinator Rob Archibald from Maize Career Academy said, “Once we get students in this setting at Wesley with their doctors, nurses, surgeons, therapists, they’re the best teachers, and this is the best classroom.”

Wesley has allowed students to shadow hospital staff for several years, but the observation program was relaunched and expanded last fall.

As Wesley nurses complete their rounds, Maize Senior Courtney Trent is observing the process.

Trent said, "I think nursing, it takes a special person. These nurses, they do a lot, and they talk about how it’s hard and the different scenarios they have to deal with every day. They put in a lot of work."

This is the kind of work that Trent wants to do. Several years ago, while in middle school, she spent a lot of time as a patient in the hospital, and her time with her nurses solidified healthcare as Trent’s path.

“Being a kid and struggling with health issues is scary, and I think a lot of times kids, they don’t talk about what they’re don’t think about, what their fears and, so I just wanted to grow up and be able to help kids as nurses helped me when I was younger,” said Trent.

She’ll be going to KU in the fall to study nursing and hopes to work as a children’s nurse.

"Every time I talk to the nurses, they’re always saying they wish they had something like this when they were younger cause it helps you see there are so many different things you can do." Trent said, "It kind of helped me narrow down what I wanted to do."

This school year, she’s among nearly 90 students from 15 area schools spending a lot of time in the hospital to explore different careers and see if this is the right fit for them.

They spend 1-3 days a week at the hospital for two-hour blocks. This school year, students have done 2,200 observation hours.

“They have an opportunity to know some of our staff in all these various areas and ask them questions. Ask them what do they love about their job. Are there parts of the job they don’t like? What gives them passion? That gives the student the opportunity to think about what they might want to do,” said Chief Nursing Officer at Wesley Healthcare David Leslie.

“I found out a lot about myself that I wouldn’t have expected.” Maize South High School Senior Sidney Sheren said, “I babysat my whole life, but I never considered myself a kids person, but through this, I found out that kids are my favorite patients. I love the peds floors more than anything else. That’s really what I’m looking at going into now.”

This is beyond just nursing to the pharmacy, labs and operating rooms.

Sheren has the chance to explore some 50 different areas of the hospital as hospital staff guide and teach them. Her interest in healthcare started when she was put into health science classes during her freshman year and fell in love with the topic.

She said, “Raw, first-hand experience of this is what it’s actually like day-to-day.”

Rob Archibald, a health science instructor at Maize Careet Academy, worked with Wesley to launch the program eight years ago.

"The closer you get to reality, the better." Archibald said, "I can only say and show so much in class, but once they’re here talking to actual doctors and nurses, once they’re talking to them, they can get real answers."

In addition to providing educational opportunities, the main goal is long-term.

Wesley Medical Center Nursing Director of Acute Care Jessica Turner said, “There has been a tremendous nursing shortage. I graduated nursing school in 2004, and I believe they predicted, at the time, 30,000 short by 2050. Now that we’ve" had the pandemic and a lot of nurses exited the profession early because of various reasons, that number has really grown. The more that we can do to inspire young people to want to be in the medical profession, specifically nurses, will really help make sure that we can really provide the care that we need to provide our patients in the future.”

Across the country, healthcare is struggling to hire, and by 2030, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates an additional 275,000 more nurses will be needed.

Turner said, "We know that we need more teammates and bringing the students into the hospital and having them work aside us as one of our teammates has really helped to make them feel like they belong to this culture. Belong to the organization. So we hope that in the future, when they’re looking at what to do with their future in healthcare, they remember these experiences and want to come back to Wesley. "

In the eight years of the program, it has created a pipeline where high school students have gone on to careers at Wesley after graduating high school and college.

Turner said, "The more that we can do to inspire young people to want to be in the medical profession, specifically nurses, will really help make sure that we can really provide the care that we need to provide our patients in the future."

For Sheren and Trent, it’s made them sure this is the path they want to take.

Sheren said, “It’s helped my patience and empathy cause people here are really at their worst. They don’t want to be here. No one wants to be in the hospital. It’s really shown me that you have to be kind and give people patience and really talk to them and stuff. Another big thing is they want to know what’sIt’s going on with them. Being almost a teacher to them.”

"Solidified my decision and 100 percent knowing that’s what I wanted to do in the future," said Trent.

Wesley said high school students are getting other opportunities in the hospital beyond the observation program.

“We’ve made some adjustments to our job descriptions in places that we know they can help serve patients well and continue to build their passion for healthcare,” said Leslie. He added, “They’re” able to potentially graduate high school with a nursing assistant, certified nursing assistant, be a phlebotomist or EKG tech and then go whatever direction they want to go in healthcare.”

Archibald and Wesley have also been working to expand the observation program to other cities in the U.S., including Cincinnati, Anaheim, Detroit and St. Louis, by showing what they have done and how to replicate it.