Students from across the Valley spent their summer at Abrazo West Campus learning about health careers and helping in various departments through the hospital’s summer program.
Needing to meet a specific criterion to apply, more than 200 students between the ages of 15 to 19 applied for this inclusive program last spring.
“It was really something to guide our kids in our community, since Abrazo West is a really big community hospital,” said Trisha Pollard, director of surgical services at the Goodyear hospital. “We like to feed our community. … It’s really just the development of our kids and kind of growing them into this field.”
Of the more than 200 who applied, just 42 students were selected to partake, coming from Anthem, Avondale, Buckeye, Glendale, Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Peoria, Scottsdale and other locales.
Pollard said she was impressed with what she saw.
“These are really driven students,” Pollard said. “When I was even just talking to them, they really knew what they wanted to do. They really had good questions to ask. You can tell they were really engaged.
“They were really just engaged and happy to be here. So, it was really, really exciting.”
Highlighting the program were one-hour “Lunch and Learn” sessions and four-hour workshops that offered hands-on activities and speakers ranging from hospital clinical staff to surgeons and trauma physicians.
Lunch and Learn topics included careers in intensive care units; respiratory therapy career paths; radiology and imaging careers; emergency management; careers in emergency medicine and trauma medicine; physical, occupational and speech therapy; pathways to a career in surgery; and health care administration careers, among others.
Being able to put on this program for the community at such a large and reputable hospital is gratifying for Pollard, but it all feeds back into Abrazo West’s roots.
“One of the things I love about this hospital is it started as a community hospital, really just serving the West Valley years ago, but it’s really grown into a big trauma center,” she said. “Now we’re advanced with complex robotics and complex spine procedures and complex heart procedures.
“I think it can draw the attention that kids really want, because there’s such a wide variety of things to do here. I think we’re really lucky being in this spot.”
Learning to apply various medical skills from a hands-on perspective were covered throughout the workshops as well. Those included “stop the bleed” for trauma, wound care and treatment, as well as robot-assisted surgery.
“I think as we build the program, a lot of people will know that they didn’t just come here and listen to speakers, because what 14-year-old is going to listen to someone talk for an hour, right?” Pollard said. “I think the fact that they got to see so much, that it was hands-on, that they were chosen, that it wasn’t just like, ‘Hey, we’re going to take this kid … but they had to show a true interest and prove it,’ I think that’s important.”
Of the 42 students who participated in the summer program were Alexis Olayo and Alana Roman, who recently graduated from Canyon View High School in Waddell.
Olayo, who will attend Phoenix College, is interested in a career in respiratory therapy. Roman, who is interested in a career as a trauma nurse, will attend the University of Portland.
The two agreed they have seen and learned more in the program than they ever had in any internship. Abrazo West’s program lived up to what they thought it would be.
“We thought there would be really great experiences, which we were told,” Roman said. “With there being like 200 applicants, and only a few people were chosen, meant that it’s a great opportunity. It’s something that we just couldn’t pass up.”
Both students recommend the program. They each said anyone interested in the future should just take the leap and go for it.
“They really don’t care about your school; they care about how you interact with people and like what you do outside of it,” Olayo said. “Write about yourself to get in here. The interview wasn’t too hard, but you just have to be a good people’s person.”
“If you’re not sure, just take the risk, because what can go wrong?” Roman added. “You’re not going to get hurt, and it can only benefit you, and it’ll literally be an amazing experience.”
Pollard said most rewarding part of being able to pass on this knowledge to these students is getting to see the excitement on their faces.
“Seeing just the interest that they spark, it was really exciting to see,” she said. “We don’t get a lot of new nurses or a lot of new grads here in the OR because it’s really more a critical kind of department where (nurses) need a lot of experience.
“Just the different types of pieces of the puzzle to put it together for them so it kind of all clicks and makes sense and the fact that this can actually impact their decision on what they want to do moving forward in their life is probably one of the biggest things.”
After seeing success with the program this year, Pollard said the plan is to repeat it annually.
“We’re hoping to do it every year just to get the kids a little bit more engaged in the field and get more interest in it,” Pollard said.