Like its twin in the engineering and manufacturing field, the Medical Strand of the Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) is in a trial run this semester.

Both branches of the Lincoln County R-III School District’s CAPS program have been focusing on building soft business skills and in immersing their students in different industries, but where the engineering strand has been working with companies like Elite Tool & Die and Toyota, the students on the medical side of things have been learning from professionals at Mercy Hospital Lincoln, the Lincoln County Ambulance District and the county’s Health Department. 

The Medical Strand spends its time split between a classroom at Missouri Baptist University’s local campus and at the hospitals.

In class, the students work on their professional and networking skills, or invite in guest speakers. For example, so far they’ve spoken with local paramedics about the opioid epidemic, did Stop the Bleed training and got their Basic Life Support certification from the Ambulance District. 

“I definitely like it a lot more in CAPS, versus in regular school because they’re [the CAPS students] all wanting to do something in the medical field, so we’re all aiming for the same goal,” CAPS student Jodi King said. “So it’s not like someone who doesn’t want to be there is dragging it down.”

For the other half of their time, the students do rotations with particular specialties within Mercy Hospital Lincoln, said King.

“We do every single part of the hospital, whether it’s the front desk – meeting and registering [the patients] – or going through linen and understanding the importance of each individual aspect of the hospital,” King said. 

In her last rotation, King said she was in the urgent care, shadowing a nurse practitioner throughout the day. 

“You get a lot more, not really hands-on, but a lot more visual learning through them,” King said.  “I was able to see how they run flu tests, and strep tests and influenza tests, and how to build those relationships with patients as well.”

In previous rotations, King rotated through the pharmacy and therapy environments as well.

During the last rotation, Caitlin Wright spent her time in the therapy branch. 

She started with the Pulmonary Therapy section, working alongside a nurse handling patients that were recuperating from heart attacks and strokes, monitoring their heart rate and breathing as they exercised, charting the data to monitor their recovery.  

Following that, Wright went to the Physical Therapy side of things, working with a nurse who was helping someone recovering from an accident. 

The nurse did minor physical adjustments and ran the patient through strengthening and lifting exercises to help the person return to their job. 

“That was the interesting part to me, I went to therapy, but two vastly different things,” Wright said. “I went from patients recovering from a heart disorder to a patient that was having musculatory, skeleton problems.”

Wright said while she’s interested in working in another discipline, seeing a wider variety of fields in the medical profession has helped lay out more potential career paths for her. 

“I’m really interested in nurse anesthesia, but as I’ve gotten to experience more in the hospital I’m definitely open to more options,” Wright said. 

Giving the students an opportunity to try out these different specializations and figure if they suit their tastes is a huge benefit, Wright said. 

Even for students who know they want to go into a medical field, getting the full experience of hospital work in is a huge boon. 

“It’s really nice to be able to see the variety of jobs that are available and how different they can be,” Wright said.

The major difference between CAPS and any other type of class is the feeling of being a professional, Wright said, treated as someone pursuing a future in the field.

“When you’re just in a classroom setting, you’re sitting and just listening to someone talk, and you’re taking some notes, but when we’re at CAPS we’re actually getting to see real people with real problems being treated by real physicians,” Wright said. “I would say that’s the major difference, it’s not just play pretend in a classroom anymore, we’re in real life situations with patients who may be at risk, losing their lives, dealing with loss, all kinds of stuff like that.”

CAPS student Katie Clinton wants to become a labor and delivery nurse and work in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. 

She said the professional skills she’s been developing in CAPS, and the experience she’s been getting in the hospital setting, have been helping her get towards that goal.

“Like how to talk in certain situations and how to approach certain situations, also knowing what I can and can’t do, like my strengths and abilities and things that I can definitely improve on,” Clinton said. 

CAPS student Clay Caldwell eventually wants to become a trauma surgeon, which was a decision he’d made before this semester, but the CAPS program has been helpful in getting him to that end goal. 

Through networking and connections he’s been able to set up thanks to CAPS, Caldwell said in his free time he’s been able to sit in on procedures at the hospital and observe.

“This morning I was watching more of a clinical setting, where they come in to the surgeon, and the surgeon will tell them, ‘Hey, do you need surgery or not,’” Caldwell said. “It’s definitely got me some more, not hands-on, but some more practical experience directly with what I’m going to do.”

“It’s a great way to get your foot in the door, whether you’re doing the engineering strand or the healthcare field, build some connections, put a little bit of stuff on your resume,” Caldwell added. “It just kind of gives you more of an inside opportunity [with] what you think you’re going to do in life, and more hands-on experience than if you’re just on the outside looking in.”

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A certified wiz at playing tabletop war games and binge-watching anime, I spend far too much time on the internet. Also I run a couple of newspapers.

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