Nearly a decade ago, a local high school approached Grays Harbor Community Hospital (GHCH) about building a medical careers program in the Harbor. Intrigued with the idea, GHCH Education Director Dori Unterseher suggested expanding the program to the entire Grays Harbor area, and the Twin Harbors Professional Medical Careers program was born.

GHCH Community Partnerships blood pressure
Students in the Professional Medical Careers program learn essential skills that prepare them to sit for the national Certified Nursing Assistant exam. Photo courtesy: Twin Harbors Branch Skills Center

The Professional Medical Careers program is one of several key partnerships between GHCH and the community designed to increase public health and build employment pathways. Other notable programs include a Medical Assistant program, built in conjunction with Grays Harbor College, and the annual Health Fair.

Professional Medical Careers Program

This spring, the Twin Harbors Professional Medical Careers program will graduate its eighth class. The program includes students from a consortium of 10 area high schools. Students who complete the course will earn 14 college credits and have the opportunity to sit for the national Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) exam.

“I’m extremely proud of this program,” says Unterseher. “We have had 105 students successfully pass through the program in the past 7 years. 100 percent of those students have passed the national exam.”

GHCH Community Partnerships making bed
Students in the Professional Medical Careers program and the Medical Assistant program complete clinicals each spring at Grays Harbor Community Hospital and its clinics. Photo courtesy: Twin Harbors Branch Skills Center

The program is open to high school juniors and seniors and lasts for a full school year. Through a combination of classwork and clinicals, the students gain a solid foundation for future medical careers. Some immediately go to work as nursing assistants in the community. Others go on for additional training, eventually becoming phlebotomists or registered nurses or going on to medical school.

In addition to being one of the founding partners of the program, GHCH provides the STAT center, in which students learn essential skills such as wheelchair transfers, bed baths and measuring blood pressure. The hospital also provides mentoring and access to the facility for clinical rotations.

“Without GHCH and Pacific Care, we wouldn’t be able to effectively prepare our students,” explains Lynn Green, director of the Twin Harbors Branch Skills Center. “It’s exciting to be able to connect students with credentials, mentors and industry partners who can prepare them for medical careers.”

Medical Assistant Program

Inspired by need in the community and by the success of the Professional Medical Careers program, Grays Harbor College recently partnered with GHCH to offer a Medical Assistant program. The program will graduate its first class in June, and local clinics are thrilled.

GHCH Community Partnerships studying
The Professional Medical Careers program and the Medical Assistant program offer career pathways for students from ten local high schools and Grays Harbor College. Photo courtesy: Twin Harbors Branch Skills Center

“Until now, the closest Medical Assistant program was in Olympia,” says Unterseher. “There is a huge need for qualified Medical Assistants in the clinics here in the Harbor and all the way from Raymond to Forks.”

The two-year program includes a mix of high school students and Grays Harbor College students. As with the Professional Medical Careers program, students complete clinicals at the hospital, both in family medicine and in the specialty clinics.

Those who successfully complete the program earn their Associates Degree and sit for the national Medical Assistant exam. Whether they choose medical assisting as their profession or use the program as a stepping stone for future education and careers, they are well-positioned to move forward.

GHCH Community Partnerships Bike Rodeo
This year at the annual Health Fair, the Aberdeen Police Department teamed up with the Aberdeen Fire Department to provide a bicycle rodeo. Photo courtesy: Grays Harbor Community Hospital

Health Fair

This January, GHCH held its fourth annual Health Fair. Since 2015, the Health Fair has grown to include 63 exhibitors. From the Grays Harbor YMCA to the Aberdeen Farmer’s Market to Reed Acupuncture, the fair offers a wide variety of booths. For example, this year, participants enjoyed a relaxing chair massage from Oceana Spa and tested their lung function at the Cardiopulmonary booth.

In a popular new addition to the fair, Aberdeen Fire Department and Aberdeen Police Department joined forces to provide a bicycle rodeo. Dozens of children participated in the rodeo and got fitted for bicycle helmets donated by RehabVisions.

“The Shoppes at Riverside have also been a wonderful partner, providing a venue with no fee for us or for the exhibitors,” says Unterseher. “This community partnership allows us to share essential information about the health services in our community.”

Committed to the Community

GHCH Community Partnerships Acupuncture
Reed Acupuncture was one of 63 exhibitors at the Health Fair in January. With generous support from The Shoppes at Riverside, the Health Fair has grown to provide a wealth of information and activities for the public. Photo courtesy: Grays Harbor Community Hospital

“GHCH has a responsibility to the community to be the best health partner it can be,” explains Unterseher. The Professional Medical Careers program, the Medical Assistant program and the Health Fair are just a few of the ways the hospital keeps that promise of community support.

For the young people who jumpstart their careers to the clinics that benefit from a pool of well-trained candidates, these partnerships set the stage for local employment opportunities and improved health care services.

Next time you run into a young nursing assistant or medical assistant at your clinic, give them a big smile. And in January, when the Health Fair rolls around again, be sure to join the fun. You will be happy you did.

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