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Career Technical Center expands healthcare program

Students attending Johnson County Career and Technical Center are fortunate in that they have a unique opportunity to step outside the typical classroom setting and experience a different type of learning environment. From agriculture to culinary arts, the students are exposed to a variety of skills that will prove to be useful throughout their lives.
The second in a series of articles on Johnson County Career and Technical Center concentrates on the health science arena. Jeannie Taylor, a surgical registered nurse for 15 years, has worked for Johnson County Schools for the past 12 years. Taylor heads up the health science technology classes at the career center. There are five courses within health science. Taylor recently took some time off from her summer vacation to discuss what each class entails.
Health science education is a prerequisite for all of the health science classes offered at the center. Students are exposed to various career paths, basic nursing and health skills, including anatomy. “Anatomy is almost a class within itself,” said Taylor. Students learn about the infection chain and procedures associated with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This act was designed in part to address the security of every patient’s health information.
In the nursing and medical therapeutics classes, students learn a variety of nursing skills, from making a hospital bed both occupied and unoccupied, the transfer of patients from one location to another, as well as learning to communicate with their patients. Taylor stresses that as all students are different types of learners, so are their patients. It’s up to the nurse to determine what type of learner their patient is, be it visual, auditory or hands on, as they give instructions on medication, therapies and even day-to-day interactions. As the students will be exposed to different types of therapies, Taylor has each of her students pick an area of interest relating to alternative therapy. Taylor believes the students enjoy this aspect of the class as the students research aromatherapy, pet therapy, hypnosis, massage and acupuncture. Once students complete this course, they are eligible to enroll in the clinical internship. Depending on the course, students receive four to six weeks of classroom instruction. They then choose an area that interests them, such as working at Mountain City Care, Mountain City Pharmacy or Johnson County Community Hospital. Some students have even chosen to work at local funeral homes in an office setting.
According to Taylor, forensic nursing is one of the most popular classes. After the September 11 attacks on the United States, the need for forensic nursing has greatly increased, explained Taylor. A forensic nurse has received specialized training in how to collect forensic evidence and understand criminal procedures. According to Taylor, students are taught to identify bodies, along with recognizing various stages of rigor mortis. They learn how to triage, as well as how to fingerprint a patient. Taylor explained this will be useful in the event of any natural or man-made disasters. Students also receive information on search warrants from local legal experts. Taylor is grateful to our local rescue department, along with members of the sheriff’s department, for helping the students develop forensic skills as they worked together to solve a mock crime scene that was set up for educational purposes. Taylor also exposes the students to various videos from the “body farm.” Known across the nation, Dr. Bill Bass from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, was Tennessee’s forensic anthropologist. Bass would lend his assistance in cases involving bodies in various stages of decomposition. In 1981, Bass opened up the first body farm as there were no places set up that specialized in the study of decomposition. Human bodies are left in various locations throughout the farm and left out in a variety of elements to decompose. Students learn how different conditions affect the decomposition of these bodies. Individuals have donated their bodies upon their death to the “body farm” to help further research in this area.
In the Support Services course, students acquire information and develop skills that will provide support to the various departments that are critical to any type of health care facility, be it a hospital or doctor’s office. They may learn housekeeping, medical billing, pre-registration, admissions and purchasing. This class gives the students a variety of exposure to different areas in which they may be able to find employment without necessarily receiving a four-year degree.
The last class and the second most popular class is the emergency medical service course. Students learn how to handle emergencies, such as car accidents, heart attacks or strokes. They also learn the various laws that emergency medical service providers have to follow. Those students who may be interested in emergency medicine will find this class particularly interesting. Students who are part of the explorer’s program are also allowed to go out on emergency calls with emergency medical service providers. This program gives students exposure to real-life emergencies, helping students decide if they are interested in seeking a healthcare career.
As her students move on and graduate from the programs offered at Johnson County Career and Technical Center, Taylor keeps up with them, aware of what career choices many of her students have made. According to Taylor, one past pupil is now a medical doctor and between eight and ten previous students are now registered nurses working in a hospital setting. Many have gone on to become certified nursing assistants and choose to work in the local nursing home, helping to provide excellent care for residents of Johnson County.