Parish students learn about health care industry

Published 12:12 am Friday, February 3, 2012

Rod Guajardo / The Natchez Democrat — Diante Washington, right, squeezes a hydraulic hand-held dynamometer, which measures the amount of force in a person’s grip, during the Concordia Parish School Board’s second annual health careers day.

VIDALIA — Concordia Parish 10th graders got a glimpse into the health care industry Thursday morning during the school board’s second annual health careers day.

The event featured 12 professionals from the health care field ranging from pharmacist and optometrist to speech therapist and dental hygienist.

Groups of sophomores from the various schools in the parish rotated around to seven different sessions featuring the different specialists discussing their respective fields.

Rod Guajardo / The Natchez Democrat — Cathy Roboski shows how to tie a shoe with only one hand.

Cathy Roboski, an occupation therapist and co-owner of Key Rehab in Natchez, and Lindsay Devening, a physical therapist, spoke about the possibilities available through the different therapist occupations.

While several students’ eyes widened when they heard salary ranges of $80,000 to $100,000, Roboski managed to keep their undivided attention through several devices she brought with her.

“The kids love playing with all the gadgets,” Roboski said. “It helps them understand when they can be interactive and touching and seeing all the things we do.”

A hydraulic hand held dynamometer, which measures the amount of force in a person’s grip, became a competition for the students as they attempted to break the top record.

At the end of the day, Xavier White from Ferriday High School, walked away with the top score of 142 pounds of force.

While having the highest grip strength of all the 10th graders wasn’t a top priority for White, he said finding out more about the health industry was.

“I’m very interested in the health care field, and it’s all really interesting,” White said. “I help my grandmother out a lot and just like to help people in general.”

Apart from the philanthropic side of health care, White said the salaries didn’t sound too bad either.

“Oh yes, I like those numbers they were calling out,” White said.

AHEC Health Careers Program Coordinator Gabrielle Juneau said she often sees an infatuation of students with salary figures, while not taking into consideration the time spent in school.

“A lot of them are focused on the salary, and they don’t realize how long it takes,” Juneau said. “Some students don’t mind spending 11 or 12 years in school, but for others spending two or three months is too much.”

Juneau said programs like the career day allow students to get a better understanding of all the aspects of the industry and not just the money.

“I think it gives them other options and gives them real life facts of how long they’ll be in school, how much they could get paid and what they’ll be doing,” Juneau said. “There’s such a big demand for rural area health care and this gives them the right information they need.”

Roboski said she doesn’t think the students are fixated on the salary figures as much as the time needing to be spent in school.

“At this stage for these 10th graders, forever for them is to become seniors and imagining seven years down the road is hard to do,” Roboski said. “I don’t think they have a full understanding of what that money is or how much it really is.”

Devening said the path of long-term school commitments isn’t for everyone, so she attempts to highlight other programs that don’t need as much time in school.

“You tell them they have to go to school for seven years and you lose them at that point, but by telling them there are options for PTA and COTA it shows that you can still make good money, and it’s a two year program,” Devening said. “So it does give different options for different types of students.”

Zachary Riddick from Vidalia High School said he wants to be an anesthesiologist and doesn’t mind the school commitment.

“I’m a little bit on the edge, but I think it’ll pay off later on,” Riddick said. “This showed me all the different aspects and varieties of the industry.”

Riddick said he wants to be an anesthesiologist because its something he’s been interested in for a while, but also for another big reason.

“There’s never been a doctor in my family, and I just want to be the first one,” Riddick said. “It’s just something I’ve been interested in.”