Health science class

Siri Hedreen / The Outlook

Health science students practice putting compression stockings on their classmates at Benjamin Russell's model hospital ward.

Benjamin Russell High School's health science program serves two kinds of students — those interested in medicine, and those yet to realize it's not for them.

"We've had a few that have gotten to their senior year and figured out they pass out at the sight of blood," health science teacher Molly Davenport said. "So for those, they now know that this is not for them."

Davenport said the majority of their students go into medicine, through either higher education or working in the field. As for the fainters, "we've done our job there too," she said. "Either we want to convince you it's 100% what you want to do or definitely not."

Health science is one of a whole catalog of career technical education programs at Benjamin Russell, taken by students interested in a range of medical professions. Davenport teaches sports medicine for those interested in careers like athletic training or physical therapy.

"When they're seniors, they actually work with the athletic trainer here at the school and they work with the football team and learn some of those hands-on techniques," Davenport said.

Other students follow a nursing track, where they have the opportunity to earn a certified nursing assistant or patient care technician certification their senior year.

In the meantime, they learn many of the thankless tasks a nurse might attend to that actually require a bit of training — "making up a bed, transferring a patient, rolling a patient in the bed, and any of the basic patient care (like) oral care, feeding care, that kind of stuff," Davenport said.

While Jessica Dean taught the nursing track this past school year, Dean will be working for Central Alabama Community College in the fall.

For both programs, learning takes place in both the classroom and the lab, in Benjamin Russell's convincingly realistic model hospital ward. There students take turns being the patient and the attendant for tasks like putting on compression stockings (to prevent deep vein thrombosis), while practicing on dummies for some of the more intimate procedures like bathing and dressing.

Students can also job-shadow in the community.   

"We have great relationships with our hospital and our nursing homes in town, so it gives our kids a really good opportunity to get some hands-on experience not just in our classroom," Davenport said.

Editor's Note: This is part of a video series on the different career technical programs at Benjamin Russell High School.