CHICO — With her ongoing bouts of childhood asthma and a family of medical professionals, AnaMaria Rodriguez has grown up in hospitals.
The recent Orland High graduate has fond memories of the care she received as a child and the time she spent watching her parents, both certified nursing assistants, as well as her uncle and grandmother, work in hospitals, experiences that developed her interest in the medical field.
“I just knew I wanted to be here,” Rodriguez said of the hospital environment.
She’s spent hours at the hospital in recent days, this time as a participant in the Health Careers Exploration Summer Institute, an annual program put on by the Health Workforce Initiative, Enloe Medical Center and Butte College for students and recent graduates from some Butte and Glenn County high schools. Rodriguez and 14 other teens are spending three weeks this summer in class and at hospital rotations at Enloe, shadowing employees in the emergency room, pharmacy, mother and baby center, among other departments.
The free program, now in its fourth year, gives participants hands-on experiences and a look at the various careers in health care over the course of its three-week run. They do full-day rotations at the hospital, then attend classes led by HESI instructors Ellese Mello and Becca Mortimer and complete homework each day.
“You get to watch behind the scenes what you can’t see in a textbook,” Pleasant Valley High grad Malia Asosi said.
Most of the participants were drawn to the program after taking courses in the medical health and science pathways offered at their high schools.
Idalis Lujan, a recent graduate of Hamilton City High, was inspired to pursue a health career based on her love of biology and anatomy and passion for helping others. Through the program she’s been able to experience a wide variety of specialties.
“Not many people get a chance to do that and this program really shows you everything that’s out there,” Lujan said.
The teens get to see everything, they said. They watch patients coming in and out of surgery, view the city’s only hyperbaric chamber and can even observe surgeries. Inspire School of Arts and Sciences senior Leahana Mishelof saw five during her day in the surgery unit. That was intimidating, she said, but staff were supportive throughout the process.
“It’s intense, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. There is nothing else like it,” Mishelof said of her experience.
The group is excited and enthusiastic about the work they’re doing, which was evident as they practiced taking one another’s blood pressure in a classroom at the Butte College Skyway Center Friday and while they attentively listened to Mello describe how they should conduct themselves while at the hospital, including paying close attention to their body language and demeanor.
The program participants are an impressive bunch, Mello said, and eager to learn everything they can.
“My hope is that by the end that health care is their future, that they can’t see their lives without it,” Mello said.
For some alums of the program, that has already happened. Former participants are studying to be general physicians, anesthesiologists and cardiologists at universities from Davis to Boston, and many have come back to visit Mello and incoming students in the program.
The program, which also offers participants free college credit, has become increasingly popular among students and is well-regarded by hospital employees, without whom the institute wouldn’t be possible, Mello said. It will continue for as long as there is funding available.
“It changes them,” she said of the students. “I hope it doesn’t ever stop.”
The program will continue to the end of the month when students will give final presentations at 5:30 p.m., June 28 at Enloe Medical Center.
Donations to the program can be made by contacting Butte College’s Trudy Old at 879-9049 or her email firstname.lastname@example.org