Students from Crook County High School's Health Occupations class took part in Diagnosis Day at St. Charles Hospital in Bend

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Students from Crook County High School's Health Occupations class pose for a group photo with 'Charlie.'

“Annie” was riding her bike, without a helmet, when she was struck by a car driven by “Bill,” who happened to be watching a video on his cellphone with his friend “Charlie.”

This scenario greeted Crook County High School students, enrolled in Ryan Cochran’s Health Occupations class, as they took part in “Diagnosis Day” at St. Charles Hospital in Bend.

Debbie Cole, education coordinator at Cascades East Area Health Education Center and the coordinator of the event, explained that the purpose of the day was to expose students to as many different health care opportunities as possible.

“We wanted to create a scenario that the students could easily identify with,” she explained. “The point of the day is for these kids to see the number of health care careers that impact patients, from accident through rehabilitation.”

Cochran agreed.

“This type of day allows our students to follow three 'patients' as they go through the entire medical system,” he said. “They discover that there are more positions in the medical field than they typically know about.”

Cochran’s course is offered to students who are considering further study in health care. The course provides an overview of the health care profession, including employment trends, ethics, current health issues and job search strategies.

The class is all about providing actual experiences to students.

“We used to talk about the medical field and show a lot of pictures,” said Cochrane. “Now we get to go to the hospital and experience things in real life. It is a huge advantage and the students buy into it a lot more.”

In addition to Diagnosis Day, the course provides 12 clinical rotations at Pioneer Memorial, requiring the students to be HIPPA trained and take a tuberculosis screening test.

“From the emergency room to pharmacy to radiology, we are able to give students eight opportunities each term to be at the hospital,” explained Cochrane. “They follow a professional around and see what they do, learn the equipment and processes, and get an idea of the work outside of a school setting.”

While in Bend, students had an oportunity to learn about Airlink's critical care helicopter transport, follow three trauma "patients" from accident to recovery, and, most importantly, see future opportunity.

“We want to show students the variety of careers that exist,” explained Cole. “If students like rural living, they shouldn’t think they have to work on their dad’s ranch, or at a lumber mill that doesn’t exist anymore.”

Both Cole and Cochran agree that health care is growing, and it’s not just about doctors and nurses.

Cole accomplishes this by having a variety of professionals talk to the students about their career.

“Very few of those in the medical field grew up thinking they would become what they are now,” said Cole. “Every caregiver has their own, unique story.”

As part of the program, students met two male nurses who had previously been in the military and talked with the pilot, nurse and EMT/Paramedic who operate Airlink.

But it’s not all about working directly with patients.

“If a student is not a 'blood and guts person,' they can still make a good living,” asserted Cole. “Students can stay in Central Oregon and still contribute and do something of value.”

That is Cole’s purpose — to encourage and grow the rural health care population.

And St. Charles supports the effort.

“The St. Charles Foundation provides us grant money to pay for all the buses and food for the students,” she said. “And we have never had a caregiver say they would not participate with us.”

According to Cochran, by the year 2020, there is expected to be a significant shortage of health care professionals.

“My students know they want to go into health care and they come into class with one idea and come out with an entirly different persepctive,” he said. “They also discover what they do not want to do. If they can get that idea now, it is better than going to college for four years and entering a career they don’t like.”

And, they will be needed to take care of the “Annie’s,” “Bills,” and “Charlies” of the world, or at least of Central Oregon.

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