Students from three North Hawaiʻi high schools are enrolled in a yearlong medical assisting class that prepares them to sit for a national licensure exam. They started with a lab class in October at the University of Hawaiʻi’s North Hawaiʻi Education and Research Center (NHERC) in Honokaʻa, where they learned how to take a patient’s temperature, pulse, respiration, blood pressure, height and weight, along with aseptic hand washing and the use of personal protective equipment.
Woody Adrian, a senior at Laupāhoehoe Public Charter School, has known for a while that he wants to pursue a career in healthcare. “Some people in my family have medical issues and I want to help them get better,” he said. “Overall I want to help people get better and succeed in life.”
The 17 students are from Kohala, Honokaʻa and Laupāhoehoe high schools. The ability to prepare for a licensure exam and a professional career through a high school class offered during regular school hours is one thing that makes the program unique.
“It’s like early college, but it’s early career,” said Kei-Lin Cerf, the director of NHERC, which is hosting the class.
To attract enough students for a full class, the course is being offered via distance learning using Zoom technology so students from three schools can enroll. The students in the three locations watch lectures on interactive television via Zoom, and assignments are submitted online. Students convene four times for hands-on skills labs at NHERC.
If students in the class choose to continue in healthcare, the careers are there. Medical assistant is the seventh most in-demand occupation in Hawaiʻi, according to Economic Modeling Specialists International. Registered nurse ranks second and nursing assistant is fourth.
Annette Carr, one of the instructors from Island CPR leading the course, points out that students could go right into medical assisting or continue their education to prepare for other healthcare positions—or do both.
“This allows for entry-level health career opportunities,” Carr said. “They might see they like it and pursue more education. That’s how I started.”