HANFORD — Students bustled about the Adventist simulation lab Thursday, soaking in as much knowledge as they could while receiving hands-on experience from medical experts at Adventist Medical Center – Hanford.

A new wave of students arrived at Adventist Health on June 13 for the Discover Healthcare program — a program that keeps growing every year. This summer, 110 students were accepted into the eight-week program, compared to 80 students in 2016 and 60 students its first year.

The program gives high school and college students from across the Central Valley hands-on experience in the medical field. The students also get to volunteer in Adventist Health medical centers in Hanford, Selma and Reedley, as well as other departments that are of interest to them.

Amanda Jaurigui, a communications specialist for Adventist, said the program is free for the students.

Ambur George, an administrative assistant in the volunteer resource department at Adventist, said the students who enter the program are already interested in the medical field and eager to get hands-on experience.

George said by the end of the eight-week program, after the students have met and talked with nurses and doctors and completed various forms of training, they’ll have a pretty good idea of what they want to do as a career.

Students get to learn about surgery, respiratory therapy, baby delivery, how to properly lift patients, how to draw blood and how to perform CPR. This is the first year students have education in the simulation lab, so it has been a lot more hands-on than previous years.

Lemoore High School student Erick Vidal, 16, said he was just searching on the internet one day looking for ways to become involved with Adventist Health, when he saw there was a volunteer program in Hanford. He applied, had an interview and was accepted.

Mondays and Tuesdays are the days Vidal volunteers; he said he makes rounds to make sure patients are comfortable and asks if they need anything. He also answers phone calls, restocks inventory and sets up paperwork.

Vidal said his favorite part of the program is getting hands-on experience. He’s learned how to perform CPR and how to put an IV in, among other skills. 

Vidal said his long-term goal is to be an obstetrician-gynecologist, but he wants to become a registered nurse while still going to school so he will have a foot already in the door of the medical field.

What drew Vidal to this particular career choice was when his mother was pregnant and he would go with her to her appointments throughout her pregnancy; he became interested in the process and wanted to learn more.

“Ever since then, I’ve always wanted to be an OB-GYN,” Vidal said.

During the students’ interview process, they are asked to pick a few areas they are most interested in, and are placed in different areas of Adventist that are most compatible to the career choice they are thinking about, George said.

While students enjoy the hands-on experience, they also enjoy the learning aspect of the program, George said. They are constantly asking the doctors and nurses questions about school, how much it costs and how long it takes to complete.

George said the Adventist staff love to have the “purple shirts” — the students' uniforms are a purple polo shirt and khakis — around and always ask about them.

Each student has to go to one education day a week, plus complete 50 volunteer hours to graduate. Hanford holds one education day every week, while Adventist in Reedley holds two education days because the response was so great there.

“All the years that I’ve been a part of this, the students are just really excited and really eager and really dedicated,” George said. “They show up and they come — they come early and they want to be here.”

After the students complete their requirements, they get to have a graduation and are presented a certificate of completion for the program.

Friends and family members are all invited to graduation to be held Aug. 2 at the Hanford Civic Auditorium. Last year, George said 82 students graduated and more than 400 family members and friends showed up to the ceremony, so she expects even more this year.

After the students graduate, they can continue to volunteer if they like. Any student over the age of 18 can volunteer year-round, while younger students can volunteer on the weekend or after-school shifts.

Jaurigui said the doctors and nurses encourage the students to come back to the Valley after they’ve gone to school because they are the “medical future” and they are important to the health of the community.

“We are providing this for the kids in the Valley in hopes that they would come back,” Jaurigui said.

Vidal wanted to thank Adventist for not only accepting him into the program, but for putting on the program in general. He said even after he graduates, he wants to continue volunteering at Adventist.

“This is a really good program,” Vidal said. “I recommend this to anybody who wants to get into the medical field.”

The reporter can be reached at 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com

News Reporter

News reporter for The Sentinel

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