Odessa Memorial gives UW students a taste of rural health care for spring break

April 18, 2018

For many, the best way to really see what a career is like and whether it would be a good fit is to do a job shadow. If you can spend an entire week on a job shadow, even better. For more than a decade, Odessa Memorial Healthcare Center has offered this experience to UW students interested in health care through the UW Health Care Alternative Spring Break. For the last nine or so years, the hospital has hosted four students for the week.

Each undergraduate spent much of the week paired with professionals in his or her area of interest, which this year included pharmacy, family medicine, sports medicine and public health. They also got to see various aspects of hospital operations, gaining a better understanding of how teams work together to care for patients.

However, the week at the hospital included much more than just time in the care setting. They also got to experience what life is like in a rural town by taking a tour, going to a local fundraiser, and if they wanted, going to a church service. They would often see many of the same people at the hospital and in town, showing just how tight-knit the community is.

“Our job is to show them what rural health care is like, and my job is to show them what living in a rural community is like,” says Odessa Memorial Clinic Manager Barbara Schlimmer.

Barbara also gave them a chance to drive a semi-truck and took them out at night for a bit of stargazing, as the stars are spectacular without the light pollution of a big city. Usually Barbara tries to take the students to a local farm as well to feed calves. For many students, it’s a chance to take part in a whole different culture than they’re used to.

The week ended with presentations at the local school about what to expect as students prepare to attend college, and a chance to draw blood from Barbara, who generously lets the students practice on her after spending the week observing.

The week makes an impact on both the students and hospital staff, with the students enjoying the firsthand medical experience and those at the hospital enjoying the opportunity to help young men and women foster an interest in health care. Barbara says she has students write back years later to let her know they’ve gone into health care thanks to their week in Odessa.

“You have a chance to make a positive impact in their lives,” Barbara says. “And the students are all delightful.” (Tim Pfarr)



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