West Boca High School students get hands-on experience in the hospital

PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL — From the classroom to the hospital room, students at West Boca Raton Community High School dress up to get hands-on experience in the medical science program.

Their hospital courses were off during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the program is now back to full potential.

Special Coverage: Education

Inside the West Boca Medical Center emergency room, it’s just another day at high school for a group of West Boca Medical Academy students.

“Just being here and seeing everyone’s reactions and everything, it’s amazing,” said student Joshua Conde.

It’s part of their homework, the day of their clinical rotation, the day they look forward to all week.

“You learn a lot just by listening and observing everything that happens,” said student Ariadna Ozcategi. “Because when you’re in the classroom, it’s not like you know how everything is done. But once you’re here, you can understand step by step what they do, how it’s done, and how patients should be treated.”

Learning from those on the front lines is an important part of the Medical Academy.

Jacqueline Breyer knows that all too well. She studied the Academy program at West Boca Raton Community High School and now works as a patient care tech at the hospital.

“It’s so full circle. It’s amazing,” Breyer said. “I try to help them as much as I can when I’m technical. I try to teach them as much as I can, because I remember being in their shoes, and I was nervous, trying to go up to an adult and say, ‘Hey, can I still be for you?'” Can I help with anything?”

Breyer is a prime example of the program’s goal: to introduce students to the medical field so they can return to our community as healthcare workers.

“It completely changed my life. I am so grateful to Stephanie Stepelman,” Breyer said.

Stiepleman leads the program as clinical director and department chair.

“We are at a very critical time in healthcare,” Stiepleman said. “Between the changes in Washington and COVID, we’ve seen a lot of people retire and drop out of this nursing program. So now we’re really important to be able to feed into those programs.”

Stiepleman describes the time inside these hospital rooms as invaluable.

“They all come to our show wanting to be doctors or nurses from what they see on TV,” Stapelman said. “Here it gives them the reality of what it really is, and what it’s like to be a nurse. They actually see someone holding someone’s hand while they are having the worst day of their lives. They really see what it is like to do bedside care.”

“I was thinking, at first, of becoming a nurse. But now I’m trying to change my mind a bit and I might as well go and become a nurse [physician’s assistant]Ozcategi said.

These teens put it a step further in preparing for their future.

“It gives us great joy to think we’ve made such an amazing difference in their lives,” said Stiepleman.

At least 14 high schools in Palm Beach County have medical academic programs.

The deadline to apply for these and other selection and employment programs for the upcoming academic year is January 27. for further information , click here.

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