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'Informative, educational, fun': SJ/C helps introduce Richmond Hill students to the medical field
Candler Outpatient PT
Richmond Hill High School student Abigayle Godfrey learns about special equipment from medical professional Chandler Royal in Outpatient Physical Therapy. (Photo provided by Scott Larson/St. Joseph's/Candler).

Although spring break may be on most students’ minds right now, parents and teachers would agree that it's never too early for them to start thinking about careers and vocations. 

At St. Joseph’s/Candler, their latest partnership with Bryan County Schools is helping Richmond Hill High School students gain valuable hands-on experience with working in the medical field before they graduate. 

In the third semester of a health studies partnership known as the SJ/C Career Discovery Program, high school students at Richmond Hill High School get the chance to shadow ‘at least four different areas’ of the health system (both clinical and nonclinical areas) as part of a semester-long course.

“We really give a robust experience for the students,” Abi Johnson said. Johnson is a Health Educator with St. Joseph’s/Candler, and is involved in wider community outreach efforts to promote health and wellness. 

She is working now with the Career Discovery Program this semester to help orient students towards different shadowing experiences such as nursing floors, physical therapy (PT), and exercise physiology. Johnson said that the hands-on learning with SJ/C helps kids put into practice what they’re already learning in class.

“It’s truly invaluable, being able to be in some sort of professional setting at any point [in high school],” Johnson said. “You learn things by even just watching and observing [in the field].”

Since the program debuted in spring 2023, many students have shared that they enjoyed their time with SJ/C’s Career Discovery Program, with the descriptors “informative”, “educational”, and “fun” being used often in course evaluation feedback, according to Johnson. 

“You can see from the numbers from our first semester to now, it’s going to continue to grow as the rest of the student body hears about it, simply because [other students] had a great experience,” said Johnson. 

Paying it forward

SJ/C’s Career Discovery Program is a big way that St. Joseph’s/Candler is giving back to communities like south Bryan, giving young students a chance to make connections in healthcare early on in their education. 

“We really believe that these kids are going to be the future of healthcare,” said Johnson. 

“Healthcare is going to continue to grow, especially rural healthcare, [which] is a huge component for our area.”

Johnson is alluding to the statewide physician shortage affecting dozens of counties in Georgia and was recently cited by Gov. Brian Kemp in February this year as a reason for funding UGA’s new proposed medical school in Athens.    

With Bryan County’s population set to grow as a result of jobs and industry, physicians will be needed to help care for new patients and their families–potentially opening job opportunities for local graduates.

“We want these students to come back and work where they live, work where they grew up, and pour back into their communities because there’s a need here,” Johnson added. 

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