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WATERLOO — Covenant Medical Center’s AirCare crews act quickly when minutes could make a difference for trauma patients.

A group of Cedar Falls High School students got the emergency responders’ rooftop perspective last week, stepping onto Covenant’s helipad and climbing into the helicopter while flight crew members talked about their work.

“We’re to Iowa City in 35 minutes compared to an hour and a half” by ambulance, paramedic Mark Mahler told the students, who are enrolled in a medical career exploratory program.

The 11 Center for Advanced Professional Studies students spent the whole week experiencing many aspects of the Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare system at Covenant and Cedar Falls’ Satori Memorial Hospital.

On Wednesday, that included Covenant’s emergency department and the simulated nurses’ training lab. Among their experiences that day was a demonstration of putting a breathing tube down a patient’s throat, learning about transport equipment for premature babies and practicing chest compressions on a simulated patient.

What really captured the attention of one group, though, was being on the helipad. They learned that every flight leaving the hospital includes a pilot, paramedic and nurse. Crews work 24-hour shifts and face some difficult medical situations.

Mahler told the students he loved it.

“I know a good gig when I see it,” he said. “This is the best job in the world.”

The rooftop visit caught the attention of senior Sabrina Frazier, who also tried on a flight helmet complete with visor, microphone and night vision goggles.

Frazier was already interested in the nursing field, but now she has a new focus: “I’d like to be a flight nurse,” she said later.

The Center for Advanced Professional Studies, or CAPS, is all about connecting students with professionals in the field they’re learning about, typically to work on real projects for them. Along with the medical and health services strand, the program includes manufacturing, engineering and technology; business communications and design; and education. This the first year of the medical program, which usually meets at Allen College in Waterloo.

“You have a whole different feel than sitting in a classroom,” said Nate Clayberg, who works on business development for CAPS. “The challenge with health care,” he added, is that “you can’t do direct patient care.”

However, to prepare for being in a hospital setting, students have received data privacy, blood-borne pathogen, mandatory reporter, and empathy training, said CAPS medical teacher Dr. Alba Aguillon.

The students have heard presentations in class from a number of medical professionals. They’ve each had opportunities to shadow someone from a particular medical field. This past week involved a little bit of everything as they visited departments around the hospital — radiology, cardiac catheter lab, rehabilitation, therapy, dietary, pharmacy, mental health and counseling.

“This is the first time we’ve seen a wide variety in one setting,” said Frazier. She noted that helped clarify her ideas about the future because “you actually come and see what skills are needed for each occupation.”

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Courier

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