Students team up with Mayo

LEARNING EXPERIENCE — Ben Hernes, a Fairmont High School senior, is seen being shown around by Supply Chain Management employee Angie Schmidt. Fairmont High School recently partnered with Mayo Clinic Health System-Fairmont to give students an opportunity to shadow different Mayo departments.

FAIRMONT — Fairmont High School students with an interest in the medical field recently began shadowing different departments at Mayo Clinic Health System-Fairmont.

Of the eight students, each will spend two consecutive weeks in one department before rotating to another. The departments are: pharmacy, clinic nursing, radiology, oncology, supply chain, rehab, social work and same-day surgery.

“It really came back to our strategic plan,” said Fairmont High School Principal Kim Niss said. “One of the parts within our strategic plan is more partnerships with the community. And we always knew we had this wonderful opportunity, especially with this location. Proximity made it seem like Mayo was the perfect partnership to begin with.”

Niss said that every year in the spring when Dollars for Scholars gives out scholarships to students, she and Vice Principal Andy Traetow keep track as kids receive their awards. They write down their intended major. Health care is always in the top four, along with education, engineering and agriculture.

As health care is always an area that comes up each year, Niss said it only made sense to pursue the idea of working to get interested students some experience.

“So many kids when they think of medical think of doctors and nurses,” Niss said.

“We want to broaden their understanding of opportunities, not just in the health care field, but in their own community,” added Amy Long, administrator at Mayo in Fairmont. “It fit in line with some of our priorities as well in trying to focus our efforts more on creating that pipeline for future recruitment and wanting to identify the future generation of workers that are already in our town and have a connection to the community.”

Orientation day was Jan. 11. It was led by Elizabeth Sathoff, volunteer coordinator at the hospital. Since then, students have been walking over to the hospital every Thursday during FAST (Fairmont Academic Support Time).

“That orientation mimics what we do for our volunteers,” Sathoff said. “Anyone coming into the organization goes through the same orientation, and we talk about everything from confidentiality to what’s appropriate and how you greet patients.”

The students need to follow a dress code and wear an ID badge, and they sign in and out with a code. They also need to sign a confidentiality form.

“I appreciated that just so our kids could hear the expectations of a work place and how they connect with our expectations at the school,” Niss noted. “I was happy that the kids could hear that from someone other than at the school.”

Niss explained that all of the students in the program are in the anatomy/physiology College in the School class. She went into those classrooms to gauge interest and reported the school could have sent three times as many students to Mayo. So she narrowed it down by looking at seniors first, then attendance, behavior and course performance.

“We started small this year with the agreement that we wanted to expand,” Long said.

As of now, students are gaining experience as they are able to visit different departments and learn more about the environment and what’s all out there.

“Right now it’s shadow observation only but I think there’s opportunity to eventually work in some hands-on opportunities,” Long said.

“And then that would be connected to students actually receiving credit,” Niss added.

Long noted that working with students is not a new thing at Mayo, as it has nursing students, medical students and other college-aged or older students who shadow different departments.

“As we talk about building this, the resources don’t necessarily have to end within Mayo Clinic Health Systems-Fairmont’s walls,” she said. “We can look at all the possibilities and if someone has a specific interest, we can connect them to Rochester or Mankato. It doesn’t necessarily have to end here.”

The students who are shadowing the different departments agree they were surprised to learn about all of the different departments in the hospital.

“It really gives you some insight to something you haven’t thought about before,” said senior Colby Kuhl.

“I know I want to do something in the medical field but I’m not sure what yet,” said senior McKenna Mathews.

The students agreed they look forward to the day of the week they get to go shadow, and they have enjoyed working with Mayo staff. They say patients have been open to the idea of them shadowing as well.

“This is our future workforce,” Sathoff said. “They’re already interested in the medical field so anything we can do to build and grow on that is excellent and to do it in our community is special.”

Since this is the first year of the program, it has been a learning experience for everyone.

“Our plan is to continue to work together as we continue to grow this partnership with Mayo and get some health and science credits for our students,” Niss said.

“This is the first step to it getting bigger and better,” Sathoff said.