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Medical Assisting Class Connects Students From Three North Hawai‘i High Schools to Career Pathways in Health Care

Students from three North Hawai‘i high schools are enrolled in a year-long medical assisting class that prepares them to sit for a national licensure exam. They convened for their first lab class on Thursday, Oct. 3 at the North Hawai‘i Education and Research Center (NHERC) in Honoka’a where they learned how to take patients’ temperature, pulse, respiration, blood pressure, height and weight, along with aseptic hand washing and the use of personal protective equipment. This was the first of four labs held throughout this school year. [See Full Photo Gallery]. 

The big picture:

• The 17 students are from Kohala, Honoka‘a and Laupahoehoe high schools.

• Initially, due to staffing issues, the students were not going to be able to experience a Career and Technical Education health care pathway class. However, the schools, Hawai‘i Community College, Hawai‘i Community Foundation, Partners in Development Foundation, and Island CPR came together to make it happen.

 •  If students in the class choose to continue in health care, the careers are there. Medical assistant is the seventh most in-demand occupation in Hawai‘i, according to Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI). Registered nurse ranks second and nursing assistant is fourth, according to EMSI.

• The program is being funded by a Hawai‘i Community Foundation Career Connected Learning grant with additional help from Partners in Development Foundation.

Why it’s unique:

• The ability to prepare for a licensure exam and a professional career through a high school class offered during regular school hours is one thing that makes the program unique.

“It’s like early college, but it’s early career,” said Kei-Lin Cerf, the Director of NHERC, which is hosting the class.

• Also unique? To get enough students for a full class, the course is being offered via distance learning using Zoom technology so students from three schools can enroll. The students in the three locations watch lectures on interactive television via Zoom, and assignments are submitted online. Students convene four times for skills labs.

What they’re saying:

• Woody Adrian, a senior at Laupahoehoe Public Charter School, has known for a while that he wants to pursue a career in health care. 

“Some people in my family have medical issues and I want to help them get better,” he said. “Overall I want to help people get better and succeed in life.”

Through the class, Adrian has started to learn the “tricks of the trade” and now he wants to pursue a career in health care even more.

• The concept of the class and using Zoom so it can be offered to students at three schools is new, but Dr. Mike Colson, Public Health Director with Partners in Development Foundation, is already declaring “it’s a winner.”

“This is our test case, and the truth is we hit a home run right off the bat, “ Colson said.

• Annette Carr, one of the instructors from Island CPR leading the course, points out that students could go right into medical assisting or continue their education to prepare for other health care positions – or do both.

“This allows for entry-level health career opportunities,” Carr said. “They might see they like it and pursue more education. That’s how I started.”