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Boone students getting ahead in medical fields

Nathan Baker • Feb 3, 2019 at 12:00 AM

What did you want to be when you were in grade school? How would your life be different if you’d had the opportunity to try out a career before you graduated?

Students at Daniel Boone High School are testing the waters of the health care industry and getting a jump start on building real-world experience in the school’s Health Science Program.

Seven students taking the program’s personal trainer course earned industry certification, and 12 taking the emergency medical services course received first responder certification.

Health Science Program leader and instructor Crystal Fink said the certifications and the hands-on experience the students receive during their coursework undoubtedly help them later in life.

“Any opportunity we can give students to help them achieve the goals they want, it helps,” she said.

In addition to helping students take and pass national registry tests for certification in specific health professions, the program gives them opportunities to shadow working professionals in our community and teaches leadership and “soft skills,” like professional dress and behavior. All of the students in the program are also trained to perform CPR and basic first aid practices.

Under the Health Science Program, students can currently take courses geared toward EMS, personal trainer and pharmacy technician certification. Next fall, Fink said it will also offer nursing, a career in high demand.

“We check jobs posted in Tennessee and do a lot of research-based study to see what’s needed in our area,” she said. “There’s definitely a nursing shortage. I just talked to one of the CEOs at a hospital in Bristol, and he said we need to send them nurses.”

Fink said students have also expressed interest in nursing courses, based on surveys the program’s staff conduct among the student body.

Similar to the competitive postsecondary programs and job markets they’ll face after they graduate high school, students at Boone are not guaranteed a spot in the Health Science Program. Students are required to fill out applications, collect teacher recommendations, write essays about the career in which they’re interested and then be interviewed by the program’s staff.

The process is meant to mimic the stressors of their chosen fields, Fink said, to teach students what to expect once they leave high school behind.

“Health care is very competitive,” said Fink, who worked in health care for 17 years before becoming an educator. “My daughter is in a health care program. They got 400 applications and interviewed 150 people for 32 slots.

“If our students can add industry certifications to their applications for those competitive programs, it really sets them apart. Plus, when they’re shadowing our industry partners, they’re networking and meeting professionals who could sign letters of recommendation for them. It all gives them a leg up on their applications, whether they’re looking to go straight into a field or if they’re planning to go on to another school.”

The program’s results have been promising, too. All 12 of the students in the EMS course received first responder certification last semester. Out of the eight in the personal trainer course, seven were certified.

Fink said many of the program’s students have been accepted to pharmacy schools and other educational programs. She’s constantly being thanked by former students who say the program helped them realize their potential and find their professional careers.

“We’re very excited and proud of our students,” she said. “They’re all excited to be part of the program, and they all have a work ethic I wish I had when I was in school.”

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