High school students work to earn certification

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 19, 2009

VIDALIA — They’re a year older, a year wiser, and now the students in the Vidalia High School patient care technician program are getting to put all of their textbook knowledge to work.

Co-sponsored by the Louisiana Technical College Shelby M. Jackson Campus, the patient care technician program is a two-year curriculum. The first year focuses on academic theory, and the second year incorporates hands-on, practical application.

The end goal of the program is to see the students certified as nurse’s assistants and phlebotomists.

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This week, the five students in the second-year class have been practicing drawing blood from artificial arms.

That hasn’t been easy for Joanie Ames, who had to overcome a fear of needles.

“I just do it as much as I can, and then I stop,” Ames said.

The big fear isn’t about herself, though, Ames said.

“I’m afraid I might hurt (the patients),” she said.

Students have practiced on adult-sized arms, but the class has ordered baby arms and feet for practice drawing blood in a pediatric setting.

Concentrating on the level of fake blood rising in her collection tube, Emily Cavin said the blood work has made her learn to be ambidextrous.

“The hardest part of this is being right handed and using both of your hands to draw the blood,” Cavin said.

There are some admitted differences between the practice limbs and the real thing, Instructor CeCe Crouch said.

“On a (real) arm, you feel a pop when you’ve (inserted the needle correctly), and on the artificial arms, you don’t feel that pop,” she said.

There’s another, very real difference, though, student Betsy Loyed said.

“The real arms jerk,” she said.

But students will learn that difference soon enough. In two weeks, they will start six weeks of daily clinical work — two weeks at Riverland Medical Center and two weeks each at two private practices in Ferriday.

After they do 40 hours of clinical work, the students will take the certification test at the Shelby M. Jackson Campus.

The course isn’t all about blood work, though, and in the classroom there are two anatomically correct dummies that students practiced moving from the bed to a wheelchair, weighing and even changing diapers.

The clinical work for those actions, which was done at Camelot Leisure Living, was an eye-opener, Ames said.

“The dummies were nothing like the real thing,” she said.

For student Courtney Marceleno, the clinical work she’s doing should serve as a springboard for her ultimate career goal, to be a neonatal nurse.

“This is just a step,” she said.

The patient care technician program is also offered at Ferriday High School.