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Sandy Creek students explore health care careers

NELSON — As students at two area high schools prepare themselves for future careers and the job market, opportunities in the health care field are among those their schools are helping them to explore

Two years ago, Dana Epley, principal at Lawrence-Nelson Public Schools, asked her students to identify the career areas in which they would be interested. Several areas were suggested, but the health care field was mentioned most often.

Epley was in contact with Doug Wehrman, a Lawrence-Nelson graduate and physical therapist at Superior’s Brodstone Memorial Hospital. Wehrman helped Epley to devise the Healthcare Pathway program that has been implemented for students at L-N and Sandy Creek public schools. Thirteen students are participating this year.

Many career pathways experiences offered for the high school students are provided by Central Community College-Hastings through a partnership with Blue Valley Center for Advanced Professional Studies. The idea is to partner students with busines professionals while still in high school. Offerings at Sandy Creek include agriculture, construction and graphic arts. Lawrence-Nelson and Sandy Creek schools both are operated by South Central Nebraska Unified School District No. 5.

“It makes them more portable when they graduate,” Epley said of students’ participation in career pathways programming, “and gives them a heads-up by allowing them to examine a career opportunity firsthand, to determine whether it meets their idea of a lifelong career, at no expense to themselves.”

Students from surrounding schools may participate in the South Central district’s career pathways programming. The programs are open to juniors and seniors, who have enough flexibility in their school schedules to be able to commute to another school site for Career Pathways activities if necessary.

Healthcare pathway students at Lawrence-Nelson High School offered a blood pressure clinic Sept. 21 with staff members and business partners at the SCNUSD No. 5 in-service conducted on the Sandy Creek campus near Fairfield.

Students in the program are visiting an area hospital and retirement living center twice weekly while having speakers from the hospital each week. They also are taking an introduction to sociology class with Ashley Wit this semester.

“We are quite thankful to Brodstone Memorial Hospital and Kingswood Court, both in Superior, for all their help in allowing our students this hands-on experience in the health care field,” Epley said.

Seniors Delia Burger, Molly McCartney and Mackinley Thayer, all of whom have earned their Certified Nursing Assistant diplomas, worked alongside the school nurse, Kristi Wehrman, at the recent blood pressure clinic.

Two nurses from Brodstone Memorial Hospital, along with Doug Wehrman, a physical therapist at Brodstone, also were on hand that day.

Brodstone speakers besides Wehrman who have addressed the class include James Flores, from the medical lab, on Sept. 9; Roy Palmer from respiratory therapy on September 16; and Diane Littrell from diagnostic imaging on Sept. 23.

If juniors in the healthcare pathway program remain their senior year they will have their CNA certification, medication aide degree and all pre-nursing certifications completed at graduation, with no cost to themselves.

Several health care-related areas besides the hospital hands-on care option are available in this pathways program. Those career areas relate to the medical community in a variety of ways, like computer programming and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling, to name a few.

Some of the courses are available through Wayne State College in Wayne as well as through CCC-Hastings.

For more information contact Epley at (402)-621-0767 or

Hastings Tribune – Donna Christensen