A hands-on experience in health care

Students in area high schools are getting a firsthand look at what it’s like to work in the medical field, thanks to the Medical Explorers program at the Novant Health Matthews Medical Center.

(Above) A student takes part in the Medical Explorers program at Novant Health Matthews Medical Center.

(Above) A student takes part in the Medical Explorers program at Novant Health Matthews Medical Center.

The Explorers post at Matthews Medical Center was launched several years ago in partnership with the Boy Scouts of America and offers male and female students a chance to explore various careers in the medical field through simulation activities and interactive learning.

“It’s really a cool, hands-on experience for them,” said Karla Ennis, the community clinical nurse educator who heads up the Explorers program. “…They are actively engaged; they’re so excited.”

The Medical Explorers post is open to area high school students ages 15 and older, and about 75 students from schools in Matthews, Mint Hill, Charlotte and Union County are currently enrolled in the program and meet monthly. Though the program has been around for several years, Ennis makes an effort to incorporate new and innovative activities as the program continues to grow.

Students in the program had the opportunity to learn about careers in the operating room through a live demonstration of the da Vinci robotic surgical system last week. Explorers had the chance to sit down and operate the surgical robot as Dr. Derrick Barnes, of Novant Health’s Bradford Clinic, guided them through how to work the system.

Ennis said she plans to have the students explore nursing and nursing education next month. They’ll have a chance to perform CPR on mannequins and possibly learn how to insert IVs into the mannequins, as well. She also plans to organize a program in April with a mannequin named Noel, which simulates a real-life baby delivery.

One of the most important things about the Explorers program, Ennis said, is it teaches students about the many different careers in the medical field. Some students enter the program with a goal of becoming a nurse or a physician but discover other careers in the field they’d rather pursue, such as a dietician, nurse educator, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant.

“Medical Explorers is very helpful because many times (the students) have their minds set on a specific health care career and get into this Explorers program and find other careers that they didn’t know were out there,” Ennis

The program also gives students insight into which classes they should be taking in high school and helps them select the right college to attend while working toward their chosen career.

“The most important thing they learn is the importance of education and starting early to make sure they’re in the right classes … that they’re taking the sciences and maths and getting a good base,” Ennis said.

The Medical Explorers post at Matthews Medical Center will enroll new members for the 2013-14 school year through the end of December. Explorers meet on the first Tuesday evening of each month through May 2014 at Matthews Medical Center, 1500 Matthews Township Pkwy. Email Ennis at ksennis@novanthealth.org for more information.

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