Lompoc Valley Medical Center and Lompoc High School has forged a unique partnership designed to expand student knowledge of careers in the medical field. Every spring, a group of students come to the hospital on Fridays for an intense round of job-shadowing in various departments.
It’s not a typical program, however. These students wear gray-colored “scrubs” marked with the logo of HAWC. That stands for Health and Wellness Careers Academy.
HAWC is an element of the California Partnership Academy, which combines a health and medical science focus into the core curriculum of science, math and social students with a medical science elective. The program is coordinated at LVMC by myself, Chief Human Resources Officer Ed Braxton, and at Lompoc High by HAWC Academy director and teacher Jennifer Prye.
The goal of the academy is to provide students with the experiences and skills needed to deal with careers in medical sciences field.
The idea is to move students toward a therapeutically focused certification by the end of their senior year – adding critical experience elements for college applications and entry-level employment. LVMC has partnered with Lompoc High and HAWC for about five years.
It’s important that we continue this partnership for the benefit of our entire community. We have the talent and the brain power right here in Lompoc to become employees here and at other health care providers in Lompoc in the future. Exposing the students to the many career pathways during high school can help them determine if a career in health care is for them or not. If it is, they have the opportunity to determine where their interests lie. Knowing what you don’t want to do for a career is as important as knowing what you do want to do.
During their time in the academy, students hear lectures from health professionals and are able to ask pointed questions about the career and the path to that job. They ask about everything – how much a job pays, what education is required, what is good and bad about the job and where they can work with that particular expertise.
By junior year, the students are adding to their science and medical laboratory skills. They become certified in first aid and CPR.
By the time they are seniors, the students are expected to identify a specific therapeutic pathway, such as Athletic Trainer or Medical Records Specialist. That helps them make sure they are working on the appropriate skill set for their continued education and experience. Adviser Prye is filled with success stories of students who have excelled in the program. There’s the student with an inherited blood disorder who progressed from a 2.5 Grade Point Average to a 3.8 GPA and went on to study physical therapy.
Or the former juvenile hall at-risk student now attending nursing school at a California State University. And another, a first-generation college student who is now on a medical careers path at a CSU.
“First and foremost our program gives a first-hand look into the rigors health care field,” Prye says. “My 15 percent attrition in our program is a direct result of kids deciding ‘It isn't for them.’ With those that choose to stay and are motivated to continue, we have seen an increase in attendance rates from 80 percent to 97 percent and an average of a half-point GPA increase per student.” She said students involved in HAWC have also increased their volunteer and part-time work.
In the past three years, the HAWC program went from having no students leaving high school for a four-year university to having three enrolled. Another nine students were pursuing nursing at SBCC, Allan Hancock or Cuesta colleges with 3.75 Grade Point Averages.
There’s also now a Health Occupation Student Association and a special Health and Medical-theme Science Fair.