Niles Allied Health students qualify for statewide medical professionals competition

NILES —  High school students do not usually volunteer to spend their free time sitting in a classroom to take a test, especially one they will not get graded for.

For students in Angie Mann’s Allied Health classes at Niles Lakeland Hospital, a competition involving tests outside of the classroom gave them an opportunity to showcase their knowledge and their hard work paid off.

After competing Dec. 7 at the Health Occupational Students of America Regional Leadership Conference in Kalamazoo, Mann’s Allied Health Students qualified for a statewide competition in Grand Rapids. Mann’s seven students each scored among the top 10 and three students earned medals, including two gold and one bronze.

Students will once again hit the books to take part in the statewide Michigan HOSA/Future Health Professional competition March 21 and 22. If they qualify, Mann’s students could advance to the international competition.

The annual HOSA competition gives students the chance to apply the skills they are taught in the classroom and also network with experts in the field. Mann, an Allied Health instructor and HOSA team advisor, said another emphasis is encouraging youth to be leaders.

“We push them to promote good quality health care,” Mann said. “We want them to be good workers, kind of our whole purpose as instructors is to [help them] be leaders in the field.”

Mann said the competition is a testament to students’ dedication to the field, especially as many of them have busy schedules already.

“The classes they are taking now are at a very advanced level that it is very difficult to find extra time to study,” Mann said. “Not many students raise their hands and say, ‘Here, I will study some more and take another test on my own.’”

Kari Brightbill, a senior at Berrien Springs High School, hopes to become a radiologist. She said she does not see the competition as yet another test, but rather an immense learning opportunity that will help her in her career. Brightbill took the medical law and ethics test, earning a gold medal for her score.

“Medical law and ethics is going to follow you everywhere,” Brightbill said. “It is not going to be wasted material. That’s why I am excited to be part of this, I know it is making a good base for me. I am actually learning things that are important to my future.”

Brightbill said she is eager to demonstrate her knowledge in the statewide competition, alongside her fellow Allied Health students.

“It is an individual achievement to be able to get there. I’m really proud that we all got there,” Brightbill said. “We all get to go to state, so it’s going to be a lot of fun to be there and we are going to get to study harder. It’s just seeing how far we can go.”

Noe Patino-Nunez, a River Valley High School junior, wants to be a pediatric nurse practitioner. He shared Brightbill’s sentiment that the competition gives them a chance to help their careers in the field. Because of his career interest, he took a human growth and development test, scoring eighth place.

“It’s setting him up exactly for what he wants to do,” Mann said.

The Allied Health Program is just one example of career technical training that is available to students in the area. Through the program, those interested in a career in the medical profession get hands on training and the opportunity to learn from professionals. The classes also help them to earn college credit. Mann said experience in the program will also help their college applications and resumes to stand out.

“A program like nursing is really competitive,” Mann said. “They want to see that you are able to balance extracurricular activities with normal studies.”

This is the second year that Mann’s students have had the opportunity to compete at state, though she said last year did not have as much competition as this year’s students.

As they prepare to take on more than 6,000 statewide competitors, the students said they are prepared for yet another test.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how I do,” Patino-Nunez said. “I am confident that we can actually get a decent place at state.”

Brightbill agreed.

“I know it is going to be a really good experience to be there,” Brigthbill said. “No matter how it goes, I am going to walk away being that much better.

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