TAKING THE TOUR:

Denisse Waite, a flight nurse with Tri-State CareFlight, talks to MASH interns as other members of the flight crew listen on the helipad at Western Arizona Regional Medical Center.

BULLHEAD CITY — Some of the local high school students in the Mobile Avenues in Successful Hospital Care, MASH for short, watched a baby born by Caesarean section and completed a tour of a medical transport helicopter — and met the air crew — all before 11 a.m. on Tuesday at Western Arizona Regional Medical Center.

The young women were wowed with the birthing experience but didn’t want to miss meeting the flight crew, which included two nurses with additional training to work in the air and safely respond to medical emergencies that can occur en route. 

The interns were impressed with what this group of Tri-State CareFlight employees do for a living: quickly move critical patients to receive the care they need. Sometimes patients are taken straight from the scene of an injury accident or from where they became ill directly to a health care facility. Many other patients are transported from one care facility to another for specialized treatment. Care providers have to be able to steady themselves when a helicopter jostles in the air so they don’t inadvertently cause a patient harm. 

Pilot Kyle Davis explained that certain types of weather not only affect the trip but that extreme heat can mean not going up. Monsoon winds can blow dust and affect a pilot’s visibility. Monsoon thunder can cause a pilot to land as soon as possible. He also has specific training to do this type of flying.

A patient who weighs a lot (usually more than 300 pounds) or has a large girth might need to be transported in a plane or ambulance instead because that much weight also makes it hard to fly, he said.

WARMC and Valley View Medical Center provide two-week internships to area students who will enter their senior year at area high schools in the MASH program. Every day of the introduction to various health care careers is full of different topics. The goal is to show the variety of jobs available in the health care field.

The need for more doctors and nurses has received ample attention. The Association of American Medical Colleges anticipates a shortage of at least 40,800 physicians by 2030. And by 2025, there will be a shortage of 260,000 nurses, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. 

“Nurses are getting older and retiring,” said Marilyn Pollock, WARMC’s director of risk management. “And there aren’t enough new graduates.”

Pollock pointed out that there are many other types of workers needed in the health care field — especially as the United States population ages and will require more care.

A health care staffing consultant firm, Mercer, announced in May that the U.S. will need to hire 2.3 million health care workers overall. By 2025, the nation will be short nearly 99,000 medical and technologist and technicians alone. 

This year, students at Mohave High School, River Valley High School, Laughlin High School and Needles High School were chosen to learn about an array of area health care careers. Each intern completed a screening process that included writing an essay writing and being interviewed. Their grade-point averages were another consideration. All will be seniors when they return to school after summer break.

Eight students are assigned to WARMC with eight assigned to Valley View. The internship program itself has been in existence since 2013.

All of the MASH students will complete a CPR course. They also will have a chance to visit departments in the hospital they missed or make return visits to parts of the hospital they want to see for a second time.

There are so many different departments in the hospital that being flexible with the visitation schedule is paramount, Pollock said.

Each department has significant responsibility in ensuring the hospital functions properly and smoothly. That includes not only time spent getting a feel for what goes on in an emergency room and operating room, but also spending time practicing how to use a needle by pushing one into food items, such as an orange or uncooked hot dog. They will watch what goes on in the imaging center. They will view a film about the placement of stents. 

Support jobs — such as housekeeping, cooking, security, record keeping and information technology — are also crucial responsibilities in hospitals, Pollock said.

Part of one day will be spent helping to prepare lunch for the staff, for example.

Some of the students come in to this internship with overall interest in health care but “don’t know what they want to do,” Pollock said. 

Because the interns are exposed to so much information over such a short period, it also impresses future health care educators and potential employers. 

The internship ends with a ceremony at each of the hospitals, during which time the students receive certificates for completing the intensive internship experience.

“We like to make a big deal out of it,” Pollock added.

Pollock, along with Cindy Hughes, human resources director, and Heidi Greenman, WARMC’s educator, oversee the portion of the program at the Bullhead City hospital.

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