Jeanne Sager | Democrat
NICHOLAS SENITSKY, 19, A student from the Tri-Valley School District, helps Shirley Sawchuck to her seat in the adult day health program at Catskill Regional Medical Center. Senitsky is a student in the community based work program from Sullivan County BOCES. .
Just what the doctor ordered for BOCES' health occupations
By Jeanne Sager
HARRIS On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with the health occupations program at Sullivan County BOCES.
But like anything, there’s always room for improvement.
Which is exactly what BOCES is striving for with a revamping of one of its most popular programs.
Kids already have a range of options at BOCES for health careers.
Special education students can join the community-based work program at Catskill Regional Medical Center, kids with grades in the 90s can join the New Visions/Health Academy program to earn advanced college credits for their path into the medical field and students who are still testing the waters have a diversified health option.
That’s where BOCES is focusing its changes they’ll be diversifying diversified health, making it work for a larger range of students.
“Regardless of their age, regardless of their ability, they will have some kind of avenue open to them,” according to Donna Hemmer, BOCES public information officer.
“There are so many fields out there that can be explored,” added Health Occupations Instructor Carol Ranaudo. “We want them to explore them.”
The new program will give students a broader look at healthcare in their junior year of high school. While the current juniors have already jumped into certification as a certified nursing assistant, that will be held off until senior year if that’s what kids want.
The students will be able to take the time to examine every aspect of healthcare in the half-day diversified health program, finding their own niche.
That will mean traveling throughout the hospital in their first year of the program, brushing up on lab skills, learning about radiology, shadowing a nurse or two.
“They’re going to learn what sort of mindset you have to have to be in healthcare,” Ranaudo explained. “You need to have kids be more focused, and right now they come in and they’re not necessarily prepared.”
BOCES health educators hope to engage more students with the broad-spectrum approach, allowing kids who are still on the fence about a career in medicine to get a look-see.
If they decide they don’t like what they saw, that’s fine. It gives them a chance to find out in high school rather than spending thousands of dollars on years of college before they figure that out.
On the other hand, they might well end up like some of the kids in the current New Visions program, students who say they had an inkling that they wanted to be in healthcare and now know for sure.
Zakary Walizadeh of Liberty joined the program for the college benefits. He’ll be heading to college in the fall with a plan to study nutrition.
“It made me know I don’t want to be a doctor or a nurse,” he said. “I want to work in nutrition.”
Classmate Jeni Stolow saw her dreams of becoming a doctor cemented in the halls of Catskill Regional Medical Center, and found her specialty. She’ll go to college pre-med, with a plan to become a cardiac surgeon.
“When you go into the cardio pulmonary department here, they really teach you,” she explained. “You’d expect them not to want you to follow them, but they really care to show you, to teach you.”
Those are the experiences BOCES wants to extend to more students the eye-opening opportunities of the health occupations program.
“They’re going to get to see what it is they’re doing before they jump in,” Ranaudo explained.
A health careers expo will be held April 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the BOCES career and tech dining room at the Rubin Pollack Education Center for parents and students to find out more about the programs.
Open to families of kids in the 10th and 11th grades, information on the expo can be obtained by calling the health occupations department at 295-4169.