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Learning About Medical Career Options at FHS

date 10/29/2019 author Sue Chase category Programs at ISD 601

When you think “medical careers”, what comes to mind?  Doctors? Nurses? For many of us, that’s where we stop. Students at Fosston High School, however, are learning that the term “medical careers” includes a vast array of jobs, that can connect with almost any interest.  They learn that there are careers in medical coding, veterinarian services, x-ray technicians, surgical technicians, certified nursing assistants, respiratory therapy, dentistry, chiropractic services...and the list goes on. And how are they learning about these things?  Through the Medical Careers class, taught by Fosston School District Nurse Denise Staehnke.

At the beginning of the course, students identify areas of the medical field that they might be interested in.  Throughout the course, guest speakers that focus on areas identified by students share their knowledge and experience.  Often, these speakers are local and on occasion, are Fosston graduates. Frequently, students’ ideas about their interests change as they progress through the course and are exposed to more information. So far this year, guest speakers have included:


  •  Dr. Gabe Wiener Chiropractor (local)
  • Karen Kintner-Norland Paramedic (local)

  • Michelle Schoenborn Nurse Practitioner (local)

  • Jen Francis Athletic Trainer (school employee)

  • Angie Dombowski Registered Nurse (local)

  • Bemidji Northwest Technical College - Medical coding, Dental Hygienist, certificate programs in health care etc.

  • Sara Bethke Speech (school employee)


Students also take field trips and are able to engage in micro job shadowing.  Altru Hospital has allowed Health Occupations students to watch actual surgical procedures; Riverview Hospital in Crookston provides students the opportunity to job shadow as well. Especially exciting this year is a partnership with Essentia Health in Fosston.  Students will spend most of a day experiencing Essentia’s Simulation Lab, where they will see realistic demonstrations of surgery, anesthsiology and nursing activities.  This is the first time this opportunity has been available to students in the class.


Students also have the opportunity to experience simulations of different medical conditions.  Bemidji Technical College demonstrated for students what it would be like to have COPD, tinnitus, macular degeneration, glaucoma and Parkinson’s Disease.  Other hands-on experiences include an ‘injection lab’ where students learn how to give shots. Drawing blood and inserting IVs is another practice activity students have, using ‘arm’ models, and some equipment donated by Essentia Health.  Students learned to wrap injuries from Essentia Health’s sports medicine staff. Community service and public speaking are also part of the course. Students learn about dental health/hygiene, then teach a lesson to kindergarten students at Magelssen Elementary; and then provide the kindergarten students with a ‘backpack’ of dental hygiene materials.  Medical Career students also do demonstration lessons for 4th grade students and staff on CPR and the Heimlich maneuver. As district nurse, Mrs. Staehnke completes vision and hearing screenings for elementary students, so Mrs. Staehnke’s Health Occupations students also learn how to conduct those types of screenings, and practice with each other.


The course exposes students to medical terminology, so that they can look at a diagnostic term and understand what it actually represents.  For example, students might see the term “appendicitis”. They would learn that “itis” means “inflammation of,” so “appendicitis” would literally mean inflammation of the appendix. 


The Health Occupations course is a full year, and on average, 15 students participate.  Last year, 17 students completed the course. Of those 17, 10 entered training for a medical field. Mrs. Staehnke also has obtained the training to provide instruction in Certified Nursing Assistant courses, which could lead to students earning that certificate before they leave high school. Her current students learn that often, people in the medical field begin with the CNA certificate as their entry point into medical fields.  Developing the CNA certificate course at Fosston High School would be a win-win situation for the students and the larger Fosston community. 


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