East Bay High School Students Get Hands-On Experience with Healthcare Jobs

More than 300 high school students from across the East Bay scrubbed in to "operate" on medical dummies at Kaiser Permanente's training and innovation facility in San Leandro on Tuesday. The career day was designed to expose young people to a variety of healthcare professions.

With guidance from nurses and Kaiser staff, students took on roles in simulations of a mock operating room, coached a mannequin through labor in a pretend maternity ward, and practiced lifting immobilized patients.

The teenagers used real surgical instruments on fake patients - medical dummies rigged up to look like car accident victims or programmed to speak and groan like a woman in labor.

The groups also met therapy dogs and telemedicine robots, participated in a mindfulness exercise, learned about the danger of stimatizing mental health issues, and played with hulahoops to understand the importance of physical exercise. 

Kaiser Permanente’s Garfield Innovation Center in San Leandro functions as a space to experiment and train staff from across Northern California. 

Kaiser hosts the annual Youth Career Day to give young people a glimpse of real-life job opportunities in health care, beyond positions as doctors and nurses.

But Olivia Query, a sophomore at Ygnacio Valley High School in Concord, couldn't help but think of Dr. Meredith Grey, a character on "Grey's Anatomy," when she walked into the simulated OR.

When a Kaiser staffer asked for volunteers to "scrub in," Query's hand shot up.

"I was like, oh my God, I gotta do this. It's crazy because I've never seen anything like this before. But I needed to volunteer," she said.

Kaiser invests the time in teaching because the giant HMO will need to hire qualified employees in its hospitals in the coming years.

Beyond MDs and RNs, Kaiser employs pharmacists, therapists, audiologists, psychologists, medical and surgical assistants, audiologists, laboratory technicians and more. 

"We're always looking for people who are passionate about these particular specialty areas. And there is a real need. As people look to retire, as patient populations expand and more people move to the area, more professionals are needed all the time," said Kaiser executive Jim D'Alfonso, a former nurse.

Other participating schools include Castlemont in Oakland, Life Academy of Health and Bioscience in Oakland, Jesse Bethel in Vallejo, Metro West in Alameda, De Anza in El Sobrante, Richmond High, Vallejo High and Pinole Valley High.

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