Local hospital is helping students make career choices

February 27, 2004

Brandie Tatum, a senior at Burgin High School, is far from the typical high school student. She attends classes each morning and then spends her afternoons working at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center as part of a co-op program between the McDowell hospital and Kentucky Tech-Harrodsburg Area Technology Center.

"I love it here," Brandie said of her work experience, which includes working in the linens department two days a week and doing clerical work in the associate education department three days a week. "Being able to help someone else is fun for me."

The staff at McDowell hospital is equally pleased to have an extra set of hands to help do the work, both in the clerical field as well as in the clinical areas of the hospital.

This year's co-op program has eight participants, besides Tatum. They are Cory Miller, who is working in the pharmacy, and Brittney Bottom, Sarah Campbell, Ciara Hawes, Krysta Honchel, Jessica Marksbury and Johanna McKinney, all of whom are working on the medical/surgical nursing unit.


"It's so rewarding to me to see these lives changed," said Libby Mayes, retention and recruitment representative in the human resources department.

She works with the teachers and school administrators to recruit students for the co-op program and then assists with their placement at the hospital.

McDowell hospital hosted a luncheon recently for the teachers and administrators from the schools where the co-op students attend.

Present for the luncheon were Hughes Jones, principal of Kentucky Tech-Harrodsburg ATC; Judy Sutter, office technology instructor and co-op coordinator from Kentucky Tech; Damian Layman, office technology instructor and advisor to the Future Business Leaders of America Club at Kentucky Tech; Vicki Long and Patti Preston, health services instructors from Kentucky Tech; Terry Yates, principal at Mercer County High School; and Karen Peavler, guidance counselor at MCHS.

Mercer, Harrodsburg, Burgin and Anderson students eligible

The co-op program is offered to senior students from Mercer County, Harrodsburg, Burgin and Anderson County high schools who are enrolled in either the health services or office technology programs at Kentucky Tech.

Mayes said she begins working with the students during the fall semester, when they are learning the skills they will need once they are hired.

"Before they are accepted as co-op students, they have to complete a job application and I interview them and do a background check and check their references," Mayes said, noting that it is the same process used for other applicants desiring to work at the hospital. "If we wouldn't hire them as a full-time associate, we don't hire them for the co-op program."

Students who will work in the clinical areas complete the certified nurse's aide training that allows them to work on the nursing floors as patient care technicians.

During the spring semester, the students attend classes through noon of each day and then spend the rest of the day working at the hospital.

"They have their own patient loads and are expected to meet the same expectations we have for our own associates," Mayes said.

In return, the students are paid at the same rate as full-time associates. The clerical associates earn $6.50 an hour while the clinical associates receive $8.10 an hour.

Most of the students who work in the clinical areas work until their shift ends at 7 p.m. and some even work on the weekends.

Ann Chaney, director of two nursing units at the hospital, supervises many of the clinical students in the co-op program. She praised the training provided to the students and described them as dependable and professional.

"You almost forget that they are students," Chaney said. "They blend in so well with our regular nursing staff."

Mayes said the co-op program is instrumental in helping McDowell hospital recruit nurses and other associates.

One of those is Wendy Roution, who worked as a file clerk in the hospital's human resources department when she was a co-op student two and years ago.

She maintained employment with the McDowell hospital after graduating and is now secretary in human resources. Jerrilee Grubbs is another former co-op student who has stayed at the local hospital. She works as a patient care technician while attending nursing school.

The teachers and administrators in the Mercer County schools said they are pleased with the opportunities that the co-op program provides their students.

They said they have seen the number of students enrolled in their courses increase 10-fold since the co-op program started.

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