Practice is paying off for students enrolled in health-related programs at Meridian Technology Center.
Meridian offers health care-related training through its Health Careers program for high school students and adults, as well as adult-only programs such as Health Informatics, Practical Nursing and Radiologic Technology.
In addition to traditional coursework and time spent in the school’s hands-on learning labs and a simulated medical facility, students gain firsthand experience through work-based learning opportunities at area hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics and nursing homes. Students will typically spend a set number of hours each week in the clinical setting. While there, they work alongside professionals, gaining valuable experience and hours that can be applied toward their program completion requirements.
Work-based learning is an educational method that combines classroom instruction with practical work experience that is directly related to a student’s program of study. Work-based learning takes place in multiple forms. It includes internships, clinical assignments, apprenticeships, on-the-job training, job shadowing, guest speakers, industry tours and service-learning projects.
“When students study at Tech, they are able to practice their skills in real-world scenarios,” explained Radiologic Technology Coordinator Emily Wheeler. “Work-based learning experiences also allow students to observe professionals and network with potential employers.”
Wheeler noted that this type of kinesthetic learning positively impacts student motivation because it creates a direct connection between what they are learning in the classroom and on-the-job application.
“From an instructional standpoint, work-based learning also provides opportunities for individualized instruction,” she added.
As part of the course curriculum, students participate in clinical rotations at local hospitals and medical facilities throughout the Meridian district and in the Oklahoma City metro area. For many students, these work-based learning opportunities allow potential employers to observe their quality of work and work ethic. This can pay off when students apply for jobs where they have participated in work-based learning opportunities.
That was the case for Taylor Busby, a student in Meridian’s Radiologic Technology program.
Busby is a first-year student who will graduate in July 2023, and she has already accepted a job at Stillwater Medical’s Physician Clinic. Nearly all of the graduating class have already received and accepted employment offers. This is frequently the case for students in the Radiologic Technology program. Over the last five years, 100% of program graduates have successfully entered the workplace immediately after graduation. Additionally, 100% of employers have reported a 3 out of 3 on employer satisfaction in their hires.
Sara Lovett had a unique experience during her Practical Nursing clinical experience on the rehabilitation floor at Stillwater Medical. Before enrolling at Tech, Lovett already worked full-time as a nurse aide on the floor. For 52 weeks, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the Stillwater student was a Stillwater Medical employee. Monday through Thursday, though, she was a student learning and earning clinical hours that would count toward her program.
Lovett recognizes that both experiences helped her secure full-time employment as a nurse once she graduated.
“They knew how I worked as an aid, but when I was there for my clinical rotations, they got to see how I would operate as a nurse,” she explained. “That was extremely helpful because I knew what I would be doing if I got hired. It was helpful to them because they also knew what it would be like if they hired me.”
Health Informatics students are the critical link between medical professionals and insurance companies. Whether their training is focused on medical coding or patient accounts, these students understand the ins and outs of patient records, medical classifications and coding principles.
Patricia Neiman, Meridian’s Health Informatics instructor, works closely with local medical professionals to create on-the-job training opportunities for students in her program. This year, that took form in assisting with special projects for Stillwater Medical and Perry’s Foster Corner Drug. In both instances, students put their skills to work, inputting data on patient demographics and clinical information. Students who assisted with Foster’s Corner Drug also gained valuable experience in recording details for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Both of these experiences helped students realize how important medical codes and information are and how important it is that they get it right,” Neiman explained. “If a medical code is not entered correctly, a procedure or prescription could not be approved, a facility may not get paid or the patient’s medical record could be incorrect. In this profession, accuracy is everything and nothing teaches like experience.”
It’s never too late to train for a new career. High school students should contact their high school counselor for an application. Adult students can enroll in any of Meridian’s career training programs, with the exception of the STEM Academy. Evening Cosmetology, Health Informatics, Practical Nursing and Radiological Technology are adult-only programs with separate applications and deadlines. Tuition varies for each program. Visit meridiantech.edu/programs to explore training options. Online enrollment for adult students can be found at meridiantech.edu/adults. For more information, contact a career counselor by phone at (405) 377-3333 or toll-free at (888) 607-2509.