Elijah Hicks is a small thing.
At 102 days old, he's only 5 pounds, 7 ounces. It could be his curious gaze that convinced her. Or his tiny hands, dainty features and wisps of downy black hair.
But by the time Erin Dunn had spent the day in the Medical College of Georgia's neonatal intensive care unit, she was hooked.
"I can definitely tell after this experience this is something I would like to do for the rest of my life," said Erin, a Greenbrier High School senior.
Erin was among 120 high school juniors and seniors from 12 schools participating in National Groundhog Job Shadow Day on Friday. Throughout the work day, students followed in the footsteps of health professionals from the Medical College of Georgia Health System.
"Of the top 20 jobs in 2008, 12 are going to be in the health care profession," said Vickie Gibbs, health occupations teacher at Evans High School. "This program is a good stepping stone to lead them into the medical field."
This is the second year MCG has participated in this effort, which is organized locally by Junior Achievement. Interest in the program has grown substantially, from 25 participants last year, to more than 100 this year, said Cathy Sanderson, RN, who coordinated MGG's participation in the event.
"It's a wonderful opportunity, both for the students to learn and for us to teach," she said.
Participants included students from Greenbrier, Evans and Burke County high schools. The students observed physicians, nurses and other health care professionals in nearly every department at MCG.
"They won't get to put any hands on patients, but they will get to observe nurses, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, dental hygienists - a variety of jobs," Sanderson said. "We hope they will go back and talk to other students about their experience."
Jennifer Ogden will have a great story to tell. For Jennifer, an Evans High School junior, working alongside nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit Friday was like coming full circle. She was a baby in the unit, and the doctors and nurses that had cared for her then gave her a warm reception.
Now, as a high school junior, the unit held a different purpose. It was a place where she might spend her future.
"It's fun and interesting to see everything here," she said. "I wasn't expecting to see the same doctors and people who knew me. It's nice to be able to meet them. I'm visiting here to see what kind of nursing I would like to do, but I'm pretty sure I would like to work with the little babies."
National Job Shadow Day is the kickoff to a yearlong, nationwide effort to bring students into workplaces so they can explore career options. It's also an opportunity for the hospital to do a little recruiting.
"There is going to be a huge nursing shortage for the next 20 years," Sanderson said. "These could be our nurses in the next five years. Maybe its not for them. But this will give them the option to see that they can go to school in Augusta and work here."
Rhonda Dunn, a health occupations instructor at Greenbrier High School, brought 28 students from her school.
"They read and study so much information in the classroom, but when they get to see it in the real world, it makes it all come to life," she said.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.