Rural Health Care


Courtney Maye: Attracting health care professionals
is often difficult in rural areas. But a program at a tech center in western
Oklahoma hopes to change that by growing their own. Here’s our Rob McClendon. Rob McClendon: Well, Courtney, here at Western
Technology Center in Burns Flat, Oklahoma, they are addressing two very distinct trends
in rural America, the first being an aging population and the second the challenges of
keeping a young workforce here in the more rural parts of our country. Rob McClendon: For high school senior Daci
Sawyer, her after-school job is not just work. Daci Sawyer: I like to help people, and I
like to care for people, and I just thought it would be a good idea to help out any way
I could with anybody. Rob: Daci is a soon to be graduate of Western
Technology Center’s nursing program and says working as a certified nursing assistant at
the Veterans Center in Burns Flat is never dull and often rewarding. Sawyer: And I love it. I like seeing the smiles on the residents’
faces. Rob: Something Western Technology nursing
instructor Linda Badillo knows something about. Linda Badillo: Long-term care is my passion. It’s where I started and where I want to stay. We’re all gonna be there one day. Everybody ages, and sometimes those are the
people that are forgotten, and they’re the people who made us what we are, where we need
to be and where we need to go. Rob: And with long-term patients comes long-term
responsibilities. And that means respecting them as if they
were family. Badillo: Most people consider patients patients. I like for my students to think of them as
their elders, people who have given for them to be where they’re at. Rob: And there have been more and more elders
to take care of, especially in western Oklahoma, as the population here continues to age. Badillo: In our seven counties that we cover,
we have 16 homes, and in those 16 homes we have approximately 1,400 beds that potentially
could have a patient in it that needs help. Rob: And this is where current demographic
trends are working against western Oklahoma. While the elderly are needing more care, many
of this area’s young people are moving out. Not necessarily because they want to, but
because there doesn’t seem to be a lot of job opportunities, a trend that Western Technology
superintendent Hoyt Lewis says his school is trying to reverse. Hoyt Lewis: We need to look at growing our
own, and that’s what we’ve been doing. We need to build more buildings and have larger
classrooms. But it’s gonna hopefully grow our own and
those students come back to western Oklahoma as nurses, doctors in the health industry. Rob: It really speaks to a quality of life
issue. But if you could have health care here, local,
nearby, not only does it, is it more convenient, but it saves you money. You’re not going to have to go to Oklahoma
City and spend the night for a doctor’s appointment. Lewis: Our elderly, they spend probably 80
percent of their time treated and worked with by that CNA. So they have a direct impact on your loved
ones. These people are your fathers, mothers, sisters,
aunts. If they’re spending 80 percent of the day
with your loved ones, I think you want somebody that has been in a certification program that
knows what they’re doing, has proven that by high rigor and grades in their program. Rob: In fact, the students enrolled in the
Biomedical Academy at Western Technology Center are often the top students in their high school. Elizabeth Stone: I want to go into the medical
field, and I think this program will help me decide where I want to go. Kyra Whitten: I think this will help me further
my career in the future. Rob: Elizabeth Stone and Kyra Whitten are
working hard to develop skills to enter the medical field. But just as importantly they are taking an
interest with working the elderly. Stone: You can learn a lot from ’em, and I
think they’re just super sweet. Rob: That’s why Elizabeth and Kyra took part
in the Senior Ball, as in senior citizens. Stone: We went and we helped the seniors get
ready. Some of the elderly ladies, we helped them
paint their nails, you know, helped them pick out outfits. We went and we talked to them, just socialized,
and we danced with them. Whitten: One part I remember was dancing with
this one elderly man. He had a like, a disease with like, and his
hand wouldn’t stop shaking, and whenever I held his hand, my hand would shake too, and
I just think that was a memorable moment. Rob: Moments their instructor Dana Goss says
is a big part of what they learn in this classroom. Dana Goss: I just think it’s important to
pay it forward. I think it’s important for our generation
to know that they need to do that community service. And also, it just better prepares them to
go to college and give back to the communities that have helped them where they are today. Rob: And as for Daci Sawyer, well, she hopes
to become an R.N. and eventually a nurse practitioner. And while she’ll have to leave the area to
finish her education, she hopes to be back here for her career. Sawyer: Yes, I’d love to come back to my hometown
and see all the people and just see all the patients and catch up about their lives. There’s a lot of jobs out there open and needed
for us. Lewis: And the bottom line, we do make a difference
in people’s lives and our student’s lives, and then the students have the citizens of
western Oklahoma as well as all of the people that receive medical services. Rob: So in a nutshell, the training here at
Western Technology Center actually allows the young people that grew up all around here
to stay here in western Oklahoma.

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