On a recent Thursday Coronado High School senior Vanessa Tortolero, 17, was watching Jan Cass, a Wound Ostomy nurse at Sharp Coronado Hospital take care of a patient’s leg. Erica Neff, a CHS junior, 16, was in pathology sorting and organizing slides with tissues and fluid samples. The two teenagers are just a few of the 19 CHS students that are part of Health Science Pathway that intern at Sharp Coronado. Through this opportunity they observe, learn, get experience and help cement their decision to go into healthcare one day.
Connie Martinez, CHS athletic trainer and Sports Medicine instructor oversees the program. “It gives them an opportunity to see what health care is all about without going through college and then see. What they learn in the Science Pathway courses they get to apply it in health care today” said Martinez. The hospital experience is an internship for students after they fulfill requirements which include classes in medical biology, biotechnology, sports medicine, and advanced sports medicine. “[Apart from CHS] in the San Diego area I know of only one other high school, Health Science High, that allows students under 18 to intern at a hospital,” said Martinez. The internship program at the hospital lasts from November to May and students have to have taken or be enrolled in advanced sports medicine.
The program was set up three years ago, explained Harriet Sangrey, Sharp Coronado hospital patient/administrative relations manager. “It’s a wonderful partnership to train future leaders in health care. Several students have gone on to be nurses, one is studying to be a doctor. We are making a difference. It’s very important we have this program,” she said.
In the first year the program started there were only seven interns but the program has grown to the current 19.
Cass is impressed by the students she has supervised. “They are great, smart, motivated. We take them into real clinical situations. They help me clean, assist and record patients’ information,” she said as she was wrapping up a wound. Tortolero, who wants to be an oncologist someday has learned a lot through her experience and one of the special techniques that she will remember is using medicinal honey on wounds. “It’s a natural way of healing,” she said.
“I really like it. It’s interesting. I like to see the different parts of the hospital and in pathology what they do with specimens, and how they look at them,” said Neff who wants to go into orthopedics some day. Her supervisor Apple De Guzman, a pathology assistant thinks the program is valuable. “When I went to school there was nothing like this. You would have to volunteer at a hospital. It’s nice the school provides this option. This way [the students] can find out what they want to do when they grow up. It gives them exposure” she said.
Ilana De la Puente-Tawil, 17, a CHS senior wants to be a doctor. She was interning at the lab recently. “The experience is really awesome. In class we talk about what we saw and hear about the other departments,” she explained. De la Puente-Tawil had just returned from observing a blood draw and was shown how to process the blood in the computer.
CHS seniors Austin Mathis, 17, Bronson Meskimen, 18 and junior Adam McNeill, 17 were at the Sewall Healthy Living Center listening to a training session. McNeill and Meskimen are assigned to physical therapy while Mathis is in fitness and personal training. McNeill is still not sure if he will go into healthcare. “I was able to see how doctors and physical therapists work in their environment,” he said.
Mathis explained his experience, “I’ve been following a personal trainer and see his relationship with people and see how much trainers like to help. They want to do good and their job is for people not to come back. It’s an eye opening experience.” Mathis plans to attend nursing school. “This [experience] has helped my decision,” he said.
Meskimen agreed with Mathis. “It’s been an eye opening experience to see what I want to do six years down the road,” he said adding he is going to attend the University of Tennessee to get a degree in kinesiology and exercise science. “I already knew I wanted to be in the field. This was an assurance card instead of blindly going into the field,” he explained.
The students are randomly placed in 19 departments at the hospital. “We have a great staff, great role models who enjoy working with high school students. It’s amazing to hear their goals,” said Sangrey.