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Class preps students in health care diagnostics
Students Mark Aloi, left, and Amanda Ke communicate with Lori Kudlak using Skype as they work out a treatment plan for a patient Thursday during a live simulation with a college university. The exercise was part of a health care diagnostics class at Lambert High School. - photo by Jim Dean

About this series

Classrooms have come a long way from the days of pencils, paper and books, or even instructional films and videos. Today’s students have access to seemingly limitless technology and resources, and that’s changing the way they learn. This story is the latest in an occasional FCN series exploring how the Forsyth County school system is using technology to educate students.

Clad in white lab coats, members of a remote trauma unit on a mercy ship were inundated with patients.

The natives had complained about everything from difficulty breathing to itching. But through research, diagnostics and teamwork, four teams within the unit were able to diagnose illnesses, including asthma, lyme disease, a detached retina and mononucleosis.

Of course, only the lab coats were real.

The rest was a scenario played out by Lambert High School students through a program offered by Wheeling Jesuit University.

The live simulation connected students in a health care diagnostics class via computer with an educator at the university’s Challenger Learning Center at the Center for Educational Technologies.

Students had two hours to link the fake patient’s symptoms, possible conditions, test results and treatment options, and report back to the educator. They had to determine a diagnosis and recommend treatments.

The four teams competed against each other “to see how many patients they can get diagnosed in 120 minutes,” said Doris Dickerson, who runs Lambert’s health care program.

“We’re a clinical lab, so this is just one of the things that gives them real-life experience,” she said. “These kids have skills that most high schoolers don’t in terms of health care.”

Thursday’s interactive exercise was just one of many tools Dickerson uses to give her students interactive training. About 160 students are enrolled in the program, which will be extended this fall to include a third year.

Currently introduction to health care and basic diagnostics are taught together in the first year. But Dickerson said each will have its own dedicated year, with the final year of the program a clinical lab tech.

Conner Lacks is just a sophomore, but after nearly two years in the program, “I definitely want to go into the medical field.”

“I thought it was going to be more of a lecture class,” he said. “But I love how interactive it is. We take a trip on Thursdays to the hospital as well so we can see in-patient care.”

Junior Sally Jung  noted there isn’t “any other class you can take like this, with hands-on experience and with labs we’re actually going to use in the health care field.”

“When we go to college, we normally don’t have hands-on experience, so we don’t know if we want to be in that field,” she said. “So this class just kind of confirmed that I do really enjoy this kind of stuff.”

Dickerson said all of the students in the program plan to enter the health care industry, with a heavy focus on nursing.

Some plan to pursue dual enrollment with Lanier Technical College next year to get a head start on nursing careers.

Kaitlin Jones has known her future for a while. The senior took part in the pre-nursing residential learning community program at Georgia College & State University, which guaranteed her acceptance as long as she maintained a 3.0 grade-point average.

 She credits Lambert’s program for her success.

“I feel like I’ve learned so much here,” she said. “I want to be a nurse and I’m really passionate about it. I’m really excited about it.”

Jones, who has worked with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, said she would like to return after college graduation and help at its Forsyth location.

“That would be my dream job,” she said.

When they leave Dickerson’s program, students can check blood pressure, pulse and are CPR certified. They also know how draw blood and make punctures and incisions.

Between the hands-on training, weekly visits to the hospital and special programs such as Thursday’s simulation mission, Dickerson said her students area have more experience than most.

Alex Adamczyk agreed. The junior, who also volunteers with the local EMT service, said he feels prepared to enter pediatrics.

The program helps students “get real patient interaction.”

“So if I ever go into the field, I do have some experience with that, so it’s not going to be completely new to me, and shocking,” he said.