Fairmont class studying health care careers

FAIRMONT — Fairmont High School students interested in health care have a new option to explore possible careers.

A class being taught this semester offers juniors and seniors more information about occupations within health care. Becky Tow is the instructor.

While the class is new to Fairmont, it is not to Tow. She was the medical lab technician program coordinator at Rasmussen from 2011-2016. She taught in Mankato, St. Cloud and Lake Elmo.

Tow’s position was all-encompassing. Along with teaching, she oversaw the program, including making sure students had their immunizations and finding them clinical sites. A few years ago, Tow approached Fairmont High School Principal Kim Niss about starting a program in Fairmont.

“I like the idea of letting kids know about other health care careers out there besides nurses and doctors,” Tow explained.

There are nine students in the class the first time around and they have been learning about a wide range of medical careers.

“Part of the focus is going to be having speakers [come to the class],” said Tow, explaining that scheduling has been difficult so far, given the weather. She plans to bring in an EMT, medical lab scientist, surgical technician and more.

“My goal is to get [students] exposed to as many career paths in health care that they can do in their own communities,” Tow said. “I really like the idea of that.”

Niss likes the idea of getting students exposed to all their options. Last school year, the high school teamed with Mayo to start a job-shadow program in which students learn about different Mayo departments.

“We knew we wanted to expand our offerings this year by implementing the health care careers course,” Niss said. “We will continue to grow our health care offerings for our students. We are looking at creating a health care academy in future years, and will definitely need the help of the community as we move forward with that.”

Tow’s class is a blended learning class, meaning it combines online materials and opportunities with traditional classroom-based methods. Students have participated in discussions in class and online, giving them a taste of what college is like.

“We talk about what certification means and why we use it and registration and licensure and try to understand the difference between all these,” said Tow, adding that some fields require a bachelor’s degree while others require an associate’s.

They also discuss the expectation for continuing education required in medical field careers.

“Some of the things we really focus on are communication skills,” Tow noted. “Just to talk to someone isn’t necessarily communication.”

She went on to explain that students in the class undertook a simulation in which they received a history about a “patient” and then had to work through questions to communicate with them.

Students also took some personality tests so they could see their strengths and weaknesses in communication.

Other areas they have covered include medical terminology and abbreviations used in health care. They also had a section on ethics and values.

The class covers a wide range of topics but those participating say it has been helpful to learn about all their options.

A senior in the class, Erica Serna, is interested in becoming an EMT.

“I like the class because I’m starting to get a taste of what it’s like in certain places in the medical field,” she said. “I believe this class will help me when I start classes next fall for emergency medical services. We just did a simulation where you had to ‘talk’ with a client and make sure you know the right things to say to them. Knowing what to say helped me in my interview at my new job recently and I will definitely look back on that to help me in the future.”