Two students practicing CPR on a baby dummy | Provided

Students in standard medical PPE snap on the world-renowned blue latex gloves nurse medical dummies in fashionable hospital gowns lying on white hospital beds draped in thin white linens — all part of Oak Park and River Forest High School’s nursing program that allows students to get dual credit at Triton in order to earn credits and hours toward their Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) license.

The Fundamentals of Nursing class allows students to get 40 hours of clinical experience at Rush Hospital while training in class with real medical equipment. Students are trained in 21 nursing skills, including first aid, the treatment of patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia, CPR, medical charting, feeding patients, disease prevention and more.

Allison Hennings who was an ICU nurse for 12 years before becoming a biology teacher at OPRF, said it’s amazing to see “the nursing world for the very first time through the eyes of the student.”

Brian Dubina teaching students how to make an effective resume | Provided

During the pandemic years of 2020-2021, some students became qualified for their CNA license. Now students will once again be able to qualify for their CNA license and, with the help of Brian Dubina, pre-vocational education coordinator at OPRF, students learn to create exceptional resumes that will connect them directly to the medical field after high school.

The class features students of all races, genders, and ethnicities sharing an interest in the medical field. Kristian Bray, an 18-year-old senior at OPRF, says “It plays into my future; it gives me a chance to have a realistic experience in something I see myself maybe pursuing.”

The nursing lab is filled with old hospital beds and medical equipment that the students use to practice basic skills like taking blood pressure, handling patients during physical therapy, and changing bed linens. Students go from practicing medical terms and case studies to doing hands-on lessons, such as taking each other’s blood pressure.

Katye Ashton dressed in medical PPE | Provided

Fundamentals of Nursing began in 2017. This year, 52 students are learning the fundamentals. Hennings, who is also the sponsor for Future Medical Leaders of America at OPRF, explains that the world is currently experiencing a severe shortage in CNAs which makes this class all the more important to inspire future first responders.

Sam Brown, a senior at OPRF, called it “an opportunity to move straight forward into hospital work.” Though he doesn’t plan to go into the medical field, he does enjoy this class, especially the hands-on experience they get.

In the first few weeks of class, students are certified in CPR and the Heimlich maneuver before going into the hospital setting. Every three weeks, students visit Rush Hospital for clinicals where they are able to work with real patients. Many said they enjoy the experience of working in a hospital setting.

Jaclyn Thompson, who’s been co-teaching this class for six years at OPRF, and was previously a nurse for eight years, said she “loves watching [students] develop their confidence over their own clinical experience. I’m excited to see where it will go in future.”

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