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New Medical Residency program gives McHenry HS students a glimpse of rescue, hospital careers

MCHS Medical Residency students with Chris Rohde, training instructor for the fire department

A unique feature of McHenry High School’s new Medical Residency rotation program is a partnership with McHenry Township Fire Protection District to give high school students a glimpse of a healthcare career as a paramedic.

During the first year of the program, high school students were able to ride along with firefighters and paramedics on calls as part of the capstone Medical Residency program for seniors that also included job-shadowing rotations at Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital. The 27 seniors had an up-close look at more than 20 specialty areas at the hospital, plus what it is like to be a paramedic.

“High school students do not have the amazing experiences that these kids had,” said Laura Dziubinski, Medical Residency and Biomedical Science teacher. 

While the McHenry program is modeled after a similar program at Huntley High School and Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital, the partnership with the fire department is a new aspect, Dzubinski said. 

Steven Spraker, deputy chief for McHenry Township Fire Protection District, said

fire officials are hoping to spark an interest with the students to consider careers as a firefighter/paramedic. The fire department is the 40th busiest in Illinois, with about 6,000 calls per year.

Last year, about 3,500 patients were taken to the hospital by McHenry ambulances, he said.

“It’s just another way for us to prepare for the future,” Spraker said.

Dzubinski said the first year of the program went well, and she’s looking forward to next year. There are 24 seniors set to start the program this fall. 

Ishta Nabakka and Veronica Zancho, recent McHenry High School graduates who participated in the first Medical Residency program, both agree it was a great experience. 

At the hospital, rotations including shadowing professionals in the emergency room, obstetrics, physical therapy, pharmacy and more. Students reported watching childbirth, observing a brain bleed on a CT scan, and learning about biopsies.

At the fire department, students were able to select a block of time within the standard 24-hour shift for shadowing. 

In addition to the rotation schedule, students conduct research, attend training and write about their experiences. The Medical Residency program is part of McHenry High School’s Biomedical Science program, which also includes Project Lead The Way classes Principles of Biomedical Science, Human Body Systems and Medical Intervention.