COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL)— Monday morning, students from various high schools across Muscogee County joined in a pilot program that grants them access to take an inside look at healthcare.

Piedmont Futures is all about equipping students, increasing exposure, and creating a pipeline from education to career.

Piedmont Columbus Regional became the newest partner and site with Muscogee County‘s Career Technical & Agricultural Education program that gives students the opportunity to find out firsthand if healthcare is the profession for them. CEO of Piedmont Columbus Regional Scott Hill says his medical staff has been working to build up the future workers of healthcare, especially after feeling the strains of the pandemic.

“The last couple of years with the pandemic has been very difficult on the healthcare workforce, zero doubt about that. And because of that, some people have moved different directions from a healthcare career perspective. We’ve seen early retirements. We’ve seen folks that are later in their career, you know, maybe leaving a little bit earlier than they might normally would have,” Hill said.

Students with Piedmont Futures will not only be able to shadow healthcare workers at Piedmont Columbus regional, but also be able to get involved by working in different departments in the hospital. Muscogee County Superintendent Dr. David Lewis says this partnership is another opportunity for their pathway programs to help build up Columbus’ workforce.

“That’s the whole idea of starting to build our workforce pipeline in our school system. Then as the students matriculate on to either Columbus Technical College for additional training as technicians, whatever they might be, or leading on to medical school, whether it’s through Columbus State University, wherever that might be as well,” Dr. Lewis said, “So this just gives them more options and gives them a foothold into the industry, allowing them to understand what it is, what it entails, and where they might go further with their education.”

Out of the 51 students that applied for the program, 28 were accepted. All will be given the opportunity to discover if their love for science or initial interest will play out as their future career field.

“When I was younger, my dad worked at MedTech. So, I got to look at slides when I was younger. I find it interesting. And then I’ll be shown to other parts of the lab so I can see bacteria, cultures, and just everybody that works in there,” Northside High School sophomore Leland Williams said.

“I will always tell everyone who asked me what piqued my interest in healthcare and the sciences was my mom and my mom’s love for crime shows. From a very young age I was watching shows like Forensic Files, and that got me so interested in biology and the sciences behind the crime scene investigation. And then coming to Spencer High School, my new school, my teacher Mrs. Collins got me very interested in the healthcare aspect of it,” Spencer High School senior Tatyana Wilson said.

Wilson attributes the support of Mrs. Collins and her mother for pushing her to strive to be one of the students in this pilot program paving the way.

“It’s extremely exciting. It means a lot to me to know that I’m one of the first. I feel like this can not only help lay the groundwork for future programs, but also to encourage other people. Like other people of color, or in my case like queer people of color. If I can do it, you can do it,” Wilson shared.

“I think it’s cool that we’re one of the first you get to show what you do. So, if you are on the media or whatever, then you can also see what I’ve done, what somebody else in my class has done. But I think as the first, it’s to set the record for future,” Williams said. “I’m hoping I can do things with anesthesiologists because that’s what I really want to do when I’m older… I like being able to help people.”

Students just got started by attending orientation Monday. Wednesday and Friday they will be going into these labs, and real-life scenarios that will help shape their decisions for the future.

Representatives of Piedmont Columbus Regional say they hope to continue this program every Fall and Spring semesters.