Career program becomes national pilot

Published 6:47 pm Monday, February 6, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - In its third year of operation, the Professional Health Careers Academy (PHCA) has reached a milestone. This was the first year that no student fainted during a surgery rotation.
On a more serious note, the PHCA is also being recognized as a national pilot program and is receiving it's second state excellence award.
The State of Michigan's Office of Career and Technical Preparation's Excellence in Practice Award is handed out each year to academic programs whose standards set the example in preparing students for higher learning and careers.
On Wednesday, Feb. 1, the PHCA celebrated its award along with the most recent class of students to complete the program. The luncheon at Riverfront Cafe in Niles acknowledged the accomplishments of nearly 50 students from 14 area high schools.
Director of Career and Technical Education for Berrien County Intermediate School District, Paul Bergan, told about the program and the numerous health facilities in the area that are involved.
A major part of PHCA is the students' rotations in a variety of medical practices including surgery, physical therapy and dentistry, to name a few. The training the students experience on-scene is what makes the PHCA program so valuable, and, is also how career choices are made.
Students make seven clinical rotations per year.
Stephanne Schrader, a senior at Niles High School, said that a large reason for choosing rotations was to see if she was prepared for certain types of medical practices.
Schrader also said the hosts of the rotations generally keep the students near the action.
Very few patients have objected to students assisting. Most of the time, Schrader said, people have a hard time distinguishing between an actual assistant and a guest until they are told of the difference because the students wear similar clothes as the physicians.
Students choose many of their rotations based on their journal meetings, where they record their experiences and discuss the events with the rest of the class, Springsteen said.
Getting the PHCA started, Springsteen said, required a ton of phone calls and a little persuasion.
The rotations, no matter how established, have been the big attraction to the program, Ashley Solloway of Cassopolis High School said.
Any high school junior or senior in the professional health careers pathway can apply for the PHCA, but acceptance to the program is also decided through on-site interviews by staff members of Lakeland Regional and PHCA's advisory board and instructors.
Once accepted, the students are exposed to a variety of health careers that can be pursued at a university. The side-by-side training with health care professionals then provides an understanding of the responsibility of the medical discipline.
The ultimate reward for students who complete the program is the head start they get on future training. A total of 13.5 credits toward colleges and universities can be earned through PHCA.