Aiken County students ahead of the rest in health care field

·3 min read

Sep. 26—Students in Aiken County are getting their foot in the door thanks to the health science programs offered at different high schools.

"Being in these programs put students ahead of the rest," said Kenneth Lott, the director of Career and Technical Education (CATE) for Aiken County.

Lott said Aiken County has five health science programs offered.

"Just being in the health care facility and getting to be a part of what's happening, getting to see how it actually works — seeing the behind the scenes — is totally different than reading about it from a book and sitting in a class," said Shelby Gaskill, a health science teacher at Midland Valley High School.

Gaskill and Jennifer Friar are the health science teachers at Midland Valley High School who teaches students the materials and skills needed to pass the test to get their nursing assistant certification.

"This is a great way to get your foot in the door with health care and be working in a health care facility," Gaskill said. "Anytime you have an opportunity to actually work with patients if you're really truly interested in going into the health care field, this is just a crazy valuable experience — you can't beat that."

There is a written exam along with a random skills test that students need to pass in order to get the certification, and the fees for the test are paid for by CATE. The students learn 22 skills in the program and are tested on five.

Students are required to complete three health sciences class and complete the application requirements to join the CNA program their senior year. There are 16 slots for the program.

Karlee Kesselring is a senior in the program and wants to be a registered nurse and attend USC Aiken. She said the program taught her professionalism and how to get out of her comfort zone.

Ari'anna Edwards, another senior in the program said she will be working as a CNA after she graduates and plans to attend USC Upstate or Winthrop University. The most important skill Edwards said she will take away from the program is teamwork.

"I used to be enclosed to myself, but in this program, they make you switch partners and learning how to talk to people and using teamwork," Edwards said. "The class teaches you a lot, this class is like real world, you can't be late, you have to do the work and be prepared."

Gaskill said a lot of students think health care is limited to nurses, doctors and physical therapists — as that's all they know — but there are so many facets and different careers in health care that students learn about while in the program.

"It really does help you make that decision of 'Yes I really love this' or 'No I really don't, which is OK,'" Gaskill said.

Lott said Aiken County has five health science programs specializing in Sports Medicine, CNA, Patient Care Technician, CERT and First Aid/CPR/AED. Aiken and Ridge-Spring Monetta high schools as well as the Aiken Career Center also offer specialized programs.

"I think it's a great program because it gives the students options it gives the students who are interested in going to the medical field the option to gain hands on experience," Lott said.

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