By Marlana Ward
For primary care in Johnson County, many residents depend on providers who were born and raised here and who returned after obtaining their degree to help those in their own community. It is this appreciation and dedication to the community that the Johnson County High School’s Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) program hope to instill in the healthcare providers of tomorrow.
“HOSA helps with this problem by getting kids involved as soon as we get them,” shared Tina Reece, Health Occupations Instructor, and HOSA Advisor. “We introduce them to community service based care from day one in our classes. We encourage and empower students to set their goals in life and to follow through. I feel like educating them with a strong sense of community is key to getting them to come back and practice. I mentor a clinical internship program where our students can visit different departments and agencies in the community for job shadowing. They can see first hand what the job entails and this assists them with career choices.”
The program is very popular among JCHS students with a third of the student body participating in classes related to the HOSA program.
“Yearly around 200 students take courses to help them
pursue an education in healthcare careers,” said Reece. “This year’s graduating class is the largest we have had with over 35 graduating who are concentrating in pre-healthcare, which means
these kids are interested and focused on continuing their education at the post-secondary level in the health-care arena.”
The students who are in the program are not just seeking primary care positions, but their exposure to the world of healthcare has resulted in many branching out to other specialties. “We have students interested in a large range of different careers, Reece said. “These include biomedical technology, nursing, nurse practitioners, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, family medicine, and various specialties including pediatrics, cardiovascular medicine, surgery, pharmacy, dentistry, laboratory science, optometry, radiology, emergency medical services and many, many others.”
While the interest and passion are present with the generation currently seeking careers in healthcare, Reece explained how the community could help ensure that the young men and women consider returning to Johnson County to provide much-needed care to the area.
“I think it is imperative that we educate kids from the time they start school on what a wonderful area Johnson County is and stressing the positives,” she said adding, “Too often the negatives are emphasized, and that is what tends to have focus. Also fostering a sense of community in kids is important, and we emphasize the importance of this in HOSA.”
Though the number of healthcare providers in Johnson County is currently low, some steps could be done by the community to increase the likelihood of more providers coming into the area. The consensus is that everyone has an opportunity to make a difference in the future of the county. Whether it be support for the local healthcare providers trying to garner participation in healthcare initiatives, encouraging the youth of the county to succeed in obtaining their education and then returning to their hometown as a practitioner, or making sure that local government officials understand the importance of having local healthcare options available.