Project HOPE encourages students in health science

For summer interns exploring health-care professions under Project HOPE (Health Occupations Preparatory Experience) hospital patients suddenly became more than patients — they became people who needed a positive outcome. And that’s when the interns started to understand why people choose the health care/caregiver profession, says project coordinator Bettie Rundlett.

Project HOPE, a program of the Area Health Education Center (AHEC) at Washington State University Spokane, is an annual summer internship offered to high school students across Washington state. This year, some 27 health-care facilities in 11 Eastern Washington communities — Chelan, Chewelah, Manson, Moses Lake, Othello, Pasco, Prosser, Spokane, Sunnyside, Tonasket and Yakima — hosted 20 high school interns on a part-time basis for six weeks to introduce them to a variety of careers in the health-care field. The students receive a $600 stipend once the internship is successfully completed.

“I think students gained insight into how a medical clinic operates and were able to appreciate the number of different functions each department has,” said George Thomas of Columbia Basin Health Association in Othello.

Deaconess and Valley Hospitals, Sacred Heart Medical Center and St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute are participating Project HOPE sites in Spokane. Students have the option to choose a health-care facility within an easy commute distance from their home and may spend a part or the entire six weeks in one facility or more.

The Washington State Department of Health and Washington’s two AHECs urge local health-care facilities to partner in the effort to expand the future health workforce, Rundlett says.

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