Salem High School graduate Billy Nguyen worked in the Emergency Room department at RMC this year. He learned hands-on experience like restocking medical supplies and learned about the department.
CONYERS -- Several students got a jump start on their medical careers this past school year by studying at Rockdale Medical Center.
Eight Rockdale County students in the Youth Apprenticeship program were placed at RMC this year as health care apprentices. As opposed to some other students at other facilities, these students were able to get paid through a grant obtained through a partnership with Rockdale County Public Schools, Rockdale County and United Way.
The Partnership for Rockdale Employment Preparation obtained about $100,000 to promote the health care industry and pay the students a minimum wage.
"It's rare to have paid apprentices in the health care field," said Jeff Rogers, coordinator of the Youth Apprenticeship and Work-Based Learning programs. "In the past, there have been one or two paid positions available for health care students. However, these students are usually performing clerical, insurance or customer service tasks."
This year, RCPS paid for students to get hands-on experience working alongside doctors, nurses, technicians and other medical personnel, Rogers said.
"Their schedules are slammed, but a little bit of money made it more prestigious," Rogers said.
He said more than 60 students applied to be a part of the program. His department selected 10 students, and the hospital interviewed eight students; two were allowed to work at the hospital the entire school year, while the other six worked for one semester each.
This year, students worked in the Emergency Room, the birth center, the physical therapy facility, the pharmacy and in general nursing.
"While at Rockdale Medical Center, the students complete the same orientation and screening process as the regular employees," Rogers said. "The students are required to wear scrubs, name badges and follow the same policies and procedures."
The students also got to work at a doctor's office in the community during the semester they didn't work at RMC.
"I learned about the many responsibilities one has as a worker in general," said Heritage High School graduate Leslie Berry, who worked in the pharmacy department and hopes to work at RMC part time this summer. "While the pharmacy has taught me a vast amount of information and techniques that will allow me to thrive as a pharmacy technician and that will assist me if I chose to become a pharmacist, I feel that working around nurses and seeing those aspects of the medical field has influenced me a great deal and has encouraged me to be more active in the patient's recovery process."
She delivered medications, prepared crash carts for emergency situations and prepared IV medications, among other tasks.
"I enjoyed everything I did," she said, adding that she was sometimes nervous but after practicing and having help from her coworkers, she felt more confident.
She hopes to be a registered nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit at a hospital after studying nursing at Kennesaw State University.
"I feel that this would be the most amazing job and would provide me with a meaningful and fulfilling career that I would enjoy," she said. "I had the opportunity to visit the area of the hospital frequently, and it really made me feel strongly about the health care field and the importance of quality care."
Fellow graduate Jaza Baker, from Rockdale County High School, said working in the histology department helped solidify her career choice, forensic pathology.
"My all time favorite thing was just being in the lab and shadowing doctors," she said. "I enjoy seeing all of the different body parts that enter the lab. The human body fascinates me, and I would love to bring closure to family members after they have lost a loved one."
Rogers said he already is in discussions on how to continue the program once funding through the grant is complete.
The grant also has paid for pharmacy technician registrations for health care interns at the Rockdale Career Academy, to purchase a mannequin that can be used with RCA health care students and for scholarships.
Rogers also plans to use the grant program as a model for other employment areas like engineering and technology.