There is a severe shortage of skilled workers in America, and the health care industry is facing a similar crisis. One Tennessee Valley school is installing a brand new program to get their students interested in medicine at an early age.
Fayetteville Middle School will introduce 5th through 8th grade students to the medical field for the very first time. A medical science class will teach students about the history of medicine, basic human anatomy and potential medical careers.
Lauren McIntyre has been a nurse for 12 years now and is prepared to teach Fayetteville Middle School's first medical science class.
"The history of medicine, how we have our X-ray machines, who invented vaccines, and just to see that progression to now we have robotic surgeries," McIntyre said, explaining some of the curriculum.
As she sets aside her posters of human organs and life-size skeleton, McIntyre hopes to open the eyes of kids to the possibilities in medicine.
"They get an idea and are exposed to it. They can decide, is this something I want to do one day, or is this something that maybe isn't for me?" McIntyre said.
Fayetteville City Schools hopes the program will advance students' learning in high school and beyond. Middle School Principal Steve Giffin tells WAAY 31 the district has been looking to add this type of program for a long time.
"One day a week, they'll go for a 50 minute class and get to experience all the different curriculum tools and instructional things that we've purchased for the program," Giffin said.
The district purchased plenty of equipment for the class, including a hospital bed, microscopes, models of organs and dissection kits. Giffin hopes having a hands-on experience in the classroom will be just a starting point.
"Health care is very important to everyone and this will be an introduction to these students at this early age," Giffin said. "Hopefully, it will shape their career and shape where they end up in life."
A study by the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates the United States could see a shortage of 120,000 physicians by the year 2030. The study cites a growing demand and elder population as a couple of reasons.
McIntyre has seen the demand for nurses firsthand.
"There is a big need for the health care field, always need nurses. You see that all the time. Anytime you open the newspaper, there's nurse ads," McIntyre said.
She hopes through her class, students could envision themselves someday putting on a white coat.
"Eighth grade, we talk a lot about careers, just to help them kind of start that. I mean, you don't have forever to figure out what you want to do," she said.
Fayetteville students will return to school on Monday. Each grade in the program will have a different curriculum.