Hospital, Woodington team up for Students@Work experience
Gracie Howard tries out a treadmill in the physical therapy department at UNC Lenoir Health Care under the supervision of hospital employees Allison Wade, right, and Bre McMahon-Hare. As participants in Students@Work, Gracie and nine other eighth graders from Ty Kennedy’s STEM class at Woodington Middle School spent time in various departments at the hospital Thursday.
Dennis Edwards, the senior technician in the Clinical Engineering Department at UNC Lenoir Health Care, wore a shirt Thursday that proclaimed his status as the “Old Man.” His history with the Kinston hospital backed up his claim. He’s worked there for 37 years, his mother was a nurse there for 25 years and his grandfather and father once farmed the land on which the hospital now sits.
But an “old man” he was exactly the right person to talk to 10 teenagers from Woodington Middle School about careers in modern health care – especially since so many of those jobs, including Edwards’ work in biomedical engineering, support the doctors and nurses most visible at a health-care facility.
“We’re the people you never see,” Edwards told the eighth graders from Ty Kennedy’s STEM Center class who were at UNC Lenoir as part an LCPS Students@Work activity. “We have a part in the care of every patient that comes in the hospital.”
The techs in Edwards’ department repair and maintain more than 3,000 pieces of equipment, everything from patient beds to defibrillators. It’s a career accessible to someone with an associate degree – Edwards is a 1982 graduate of Lenoir Community College – who believes, like Edwards, that “science and math are fun.”
The students also got a look inside the hospital’s physical therapy department, the radiology department and the lab. Their tour just sampled the work opportunities in an operation that employs more than 900 people and where the roster of workers includes more than 200 separate job titles.
“In our community, the hospital can offer so many jobs and such a wide variety of jobs,” Lauren Ginn, a registered nurse who is an education specialist at UNC Lenoir. “Our local colleges have great programs that can allow these students to stay local, to go to school locally and then continue their career here in their community.”
UNC Lenoir is among 280 employers across the state involved in Students@Work activities during March, helping middle school students become aware of potential careers and the skills needed to be successful in those careers. This is Ginn’s third year working with LCPS’s Career and Technical Education program to host students at the hospital.
Thursday was the first Students@Work experience for Kennedy and his students. “I think a lot of them have already been surprised by the diversity that comes with a hospital, not just the jobs but all the different paths you can take to prepare for them,” Kennedy said after Edwards’ presentation.
“I want students to have every chance they can get to see all the different opportunities the hospital provides, what kind of jobs are at the hospital besides nurses and doctors,” the teacher said. “There are a lot of kids here who are interested in medicine but not in a hands-on career like nursing.”
Kennedy said he wanted the students’ visit to be “eye-opening” and, based on feedback from the eighth graders, that’s what he got.
“I think we are accomplishing the goals of the Students@Work Program of earlier exposure to career choices for our students. It was confirmed when we debriefed the students,” Jessica Shimer, the district’s career development coordinator, said. “Each student indicated they learned new careers other than the traditional ones they knew, like a nurse or a doctor. Also, one shared they did not know there were so many health-related careers that did not require a four-year degree and it helps them make selections for courses in high school.”
Students@Work is a joint initiative between the North Carolina Business Committee for Education (NCBCE) and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and is made possible by a grant from GSK.