Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One’s prevention specialist Tina Curran told me that the department always looks for opportunities to support the Peninsula School District’s missions.
Last year the department partnered with the district and John Selfors, the district’s job and career readiness coordinator, in offering a Health Science Internship Program.
“We involved local health agencies in the new Biomedical Innovations pilot class,” Curran said.
The focus was to foster real-life observations and experiences with medical professionals and occupations.
“GHFD jumped at the chance to encourage students to explore paramedicine,” she said.
Last month, six Peninsula High School students visited, toured and interviewed GHFD’s firefighter/EMT’s and paramedics. I got to monitor the second of these sessions. The students’ class project was to gather information from different medical agencies and develop their own fictional emergency room. Whether they developed traditional brick and mortar concepts or one designed for field medicine, students were to evaluate and determine what works and were encouraged to troubleshoot creative ways to improve systems they observed which could use improvement.
GHFD firefighter/EMT Alison Monda said, “Having two PHS students come by the fire station was a great learning experience for me and the students. Having the students create their ER without a budget was a fantastic idea because they were really able to tap into their imaginations. They impressed us by explaining an app they would create to which patients could check in on the way to the ER so that the ER could already be prepared for what was coming and therefore be able to move patients through quicker.”
At the station, students got a different point of view, Monda said.
“Our work with each patient ends at the ER and by explaining our triage process the students were able to expand on more ideas for the app and get a better view of what a patient goes through,” she said. “In explaining our view of how the ER runs, I was reminded of how much respect I have for those who work there. The staffs at the ERs in our area do a truly fantastic job.”
“I have always held a passion for serving others,” said PHS BioMed student Grace Haugen. “The medical field is the way I hope to channel this passion, specifically through a career in nursing. After taking the first three courses, I decided to take the Biomedical Innovations and Health Careers class, an amazing opportunity to explore careers in the medical field, and determine if pursuing a career in nursing is right for me.”
Classmate Riley Bass decided to take the Biomedical Innovations class at PHS for multiple reasons.
“I had previously taken the two proceeding classes, Human Body Systems and Medical Interventions, and enjoyed the course,” he said. “When I heard that there was going to be an additional class in the medical field, I was all in. Also, the ability to job shadow once a week during school hours is a huge opportunity to explore the specific areas of medicine practice that interest me, something you just can’t get sitting in a classroom.”
This month, the program involved students attending St. Anthony Hospital.
“We presented classroom style to the students how an emergency department functions,” said St. Anthony Human Resources manager Stacy Georgette. “Following the presentation, students toured through the emergency department as if they were a patient, from arrival to discharge. We pointed out the many functions of the layout, rooms, resources, and explained what makes our emergency department efficient.”
“I took Biomedical Innovations in order to further my knowledge in the medical field,” Noah Hummel declared. “I had taken previous classes and was ecstatic for the next step. Previous classes taught me valuable skills and lab techniques. Mr. Collins has been a fantastic teacher of the medical field. I’ve been interested in the medical field ever since I was 7. I’m interested in becoming an orthopedic surgeon and want to make a difference in the medical world.”
“In the summer, there is a Health and Science Internship for high school students where we teach how to use various devices,” Georgette added. “That is a hands-on program that lasts all day. This was a two-hour program to provide students time with our leadership staff to learn about the emergency department so they can take that information back and work on their projects.”
For student Madeleine Golden, “Biomedical Innovations is a great class; it demands students think in a clinical perspective. We have opportunities to experience out-of-classroom activities to further our understanding of the medical field. Since the class requires a large amount of independence, we undergo a similar experience to what our future may be if we pursue a health science profession.”
“This class was the next step for me,” said senior Caileigh Gainey. “With wanting to continue my schedule trend, being primarily science-based, the Biomedical class was the choice for me. This course is very independent, which is perfect for me and my peers.”
The Biomedical Science Program started at PHS four years ago and was born out of a need for more STEM and Career and Technical (CTE) programs in science, said Brad Collins, PHS Biomedical Science Teacher.
“We recognized a deficiency in hands-on, applied-type science classes with connections to the community and focused on solving real-world problems,” Collins said. “We adopted a four-year biomedical science program created by Project Lead the Way, which is found in schools throughout the U.S. and nationally recognized by corporations and colleges as rigorous and effective in preparing students for colleges and careers.”
It started in 2014 with one class in the series, Principles of Biomedical Science, and had about 90 students enrolled.
“This year, we have all four classes in the series and about 350 students, grades 9 to 12 taught by three teachers,” Collins said. “Our district recognized the success of the program and funds it without much external support. All four classes in the program are lab-intensive, problem based, and focus on using and applying what students have learned. The final capstone class, Biomedical Innovations, includes job shadowing, apprenticeships, research methods and medical terminology. Students design and carry out long-term research projects throughout the year and present their projects to community members, many of whom were mentors in their job shadow or who work in the health care field. In addition, students in the program can earn college credit in a variety of ways.”
“The message Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One shared with the students was that emergency medicine begins the moment 911 is called,” Curran said. “From dispatch to medical care EMTs and paramedics provide, it was made clear that medical care occurs well before our patients see the front door of any ER. The hope is that students left with a new understanding that our medic units are like emergency rooms on wheels. That outside of X-rays, our ambulances are stocked with nearly all of the same equipment one might find in a traditional ER as well as patient evaluations and care given by our medics, who play an invaluable role in the survivability rates of our sick or injured patients.”
“In the next few years, we hope to expand our connection and partnership to the community for the whole program, but particularly for the Biomedical Innovations classes,” said Collins. “Our goal is to expose our students to real-world practices and to allow them to explore careers in health care.”
Gig Harbor’s emergency medicine staff loved hearing the ideas put forth by the students, from special cell phones’ apps to decontamination misters.
“The students wowed us with their creativity and ingenuity,” Curran said. “It was a fantastic way to learn from one another. A win-win.”
Noted senior Hannah Bernadelli, “Like many biomed classes offered at PHS, Biomedical Innovations furthers a student’s knowledge of health careers and the daily tasks one with a medical career, must perform. I am so grateful to have such individualized study. This hands-on learning experience makes high school all the more informative, yet incredibly fun. I hope to be a nurse in the future, and having the opportunity to interact with and meet with nurses on the job is an unforgettable experience.”
My brief peek at the program was also an unforgettable experience.
Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at email@example.com.