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Peoria expands medical assisting program for high schoolers

As Arizona is in desperate need of more health care professionals, some high schools are giving their students a head start. The Peoria Unified School District is expanding its program to do just that.

Three Peoria high schools have a medical assisting program. The district partners with several health care providers to give students who sign up real-world experience. Last week, it added a new one: HonorHealth.

Career and Technical Education Director Barbara Coakley said students start out with a medical science course, then they take a medical assisting course that has a lab component.

“And as part of that lab portion, the students do clinical rotations through different health care providers that hire medical assistants so that they can see what it would be like if they continue down this career pathway.”

Those rotations are mostly observational, but students sometimes get to do things like checking vitals.

Coakley said the district is seeing more students show interest in the medical field and wants to make sure there are enough opportunities to go around.

“There’s such a need for different levels of health care workers that the health care providers have really opened up to high school students, where in the past, it’s been a little bit harder to get placement," she said. "By them having that experience maybe at HonorHealth, they start building that relationship while they're still in high school."

The district is adding the program at Sunrise Mountain High School next year and is looking for an instructor to teach those courses.

Senior field correspondent Bridget Dowd has a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.