NEW IBERIA -- This summer, high school students like Justin Gondran are spending time in hospital diagnostic labs, intensive care units, respiratory therapy department and points in between to learn more about careers available in the health industry.
“I don’t know what I want to do, but I do know it will be in the health field,” said Gondran, 16, who is entering his senior year this fall at New Iberia Senior High.
Gondran spent Monday at the lab of Dauterive Hospital. Days before he shadowed staff in the intensive care unit.
The hospital is one of 20 sites across southwest Louisiana offering a total of 190 students a chance to explore their career interests in health care. The program, called “AHEC of a Summer” was created by the nonprofit organization Southwest Louisiana Area Health Care Center,or SWLAHEC, in 1992 to spark interest in health and medicine fields, said Bootsie Durand, the center’s chief executive officer.
The program is also designed to showcase the varied career options in health care, Durand said.
“It’s not just doctor and nurse,” she said.
School districts select student to participate in the program through an application process, Durand said.
The program is competitive, with just 20 spots open in Iberia Parish, said Carla Hodge, a physics and chemistry teacher at New Iberia Senior High. Hodge works with students in the program.
As part of the two-week program, students also earn high school credit.
At Dauterive, students visit a different department in the morning and in the afternoon each day, take a field trip or listen to a presentation, said Heidi Benoit, the hospital’s education manager.
Before the program ends on Friday, the students will have visited 13 hospital departments, she said.
“We make an effort to place students where they have an interest,” she said.
Students have also had the opportunity to observe some surgical procedures, such as a caesarian section and even cardiac catheterizations, Benoit said.
Hodge credited hospital staff for making time in their day for the students.
“They’re helping these young people choose a career,” she said.
At lunchtime, the students listen to a presentation by hospital staffers who share information about their jobs and the education and training involved to follow the same career path.
Students are required to document their departmental visits and, as a final assignment under the program, must choose a career path. They are required to research aspects of the job, from educational requirements to employment options.
Breigh Sonnier, 16, who is entering her senior year at New Iberia Senior High, chose medical researcher as the career for her final assignment. Sonnier said she’s considering a career as a family physician or in medical research.
“I like learning new things and experimenting,” Sonnier said. “I’d love to be able to work in a lab all day, but not running tests, doing research.”
Laina Bell’s mom is a nurse and encouraged her to check out the summer program.
“My mom’s a nurse, so all I see is nursing,” said Bell, 16, who like Sonnier and Gondran will be a senior this fall at New Iberia Senior High.
After spending time in the radiology department, Bell said she thinks she’s found a potential career, but is still exploring her options. She said she was impressed by the different imaging technology she saw at the hospital.
“And you can still work with people,” she said.