Windham Regional Career Center: Preparing for a career in nursing

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BRATTLEBORO — Emily Mleczko plans to become a nurse.

As a student graduating from Brattleboro Union High School this June, Mleczko has been taking courses in Health Services at the Windham Regional Career Center. She's completed Principles of Biomedical Science, Human Body Systems, Nutrition, and Medical Terminology, and she's currently enrolled in Human Growth & Development and Biomedical Innovation. In addition, Mleczko has a cooperative education placement at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, where she spends part of every school day working in their birthing center.

Cooperative education, commonly called co-op, has been an important part of Mleczko's education. Once Career Center students gain sufficient skills in their program, they become eligible to participate in local job opportunities related to their specific areas of interest. Often a co-op experience will confirm a student's interest, while other times students may learn that a certain job really isn't quite what they had expected.

There's obvious value in both these scenarios; it's better to know what you don't want to do before you've invested too much of your time and money.

Mleczko's co-op, which began in January, has been a positive experience.

"Just seeing what a nurse does, the compassion they have, and their calm nature, it seems like something I'm really drawn to."

She's already observed two deliveries at the birthing center and will be observing a scheduled C-section later this month. She shared that "these have been an incredible part of the experience."

Mleczko said that her Medical Terminology class proved to have immediate value for her at the birthing center.

"The course helped me prepare for my work at the hospital. For example, it helped me understand policies I was reading about certain drugs that are used while I'm on the floor. It also helped me with the vocabulary I need to know on the charting I use. The course gave me a good understanding of how to utilize appropriate medical terminology while on the job."

Of course, there's nothing quite like the learning experience of the real world, and Mleczko has been getting a healthy dose of that. She works most days with Marie Gill, a registered nurse, who is often the team leader for the birthing center floor. Gill has been impressed with Mleczko.

"I've seen her grow [at work]. Mleczko acts like a professional and is always punctual. It's been great that Mleczko has been able to wear the scrubs and be part of the team."

Providing quality, state-of-the-art training to secondary students and adults From Bellows Falls Union High School, Brattleboro Union High School, Hinsdale, N.H., High School, Leland & Gray Union High School, and Twin Valley High School.

The Co-op Coordinator for the Career Center, Ray Dunn, sees a number of advantages to on-the-job training.

"Co-op gives a student a chance to develop a reputation for being responsible, hard-working and having the correct social skills for employment, all while working for a local business. Students that complete a cooperative work experience gain valuable career contacts and real-world experience and skills within the career of their choice."

And these acquired skills have real value.

"These work contacts and skills often lead to well-paid, full time employment upon graduation," said Dunn.

Mleczko, who lives in Putney, intends to pursue a career in nursing obstetrics and gynecology. Her plan is to begin her studies at the Community College of Vermont or Greenfield Community College and then transfer to Vermont Technical College to complete her coursework.

So, what are Mleczko's job prospects once she becomes a registered nurse? Quite good, actually, according to Alex Beck, the Workforce and Education Program Manager at the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation.

"Given that the healthcare industry employs more people in southern Vermont than any other, the labor market for healthcare professionals is a lucrative one."

Beck shared some data provided by the McClure Foundation, projecting over 2,000 statewide job openings for registered nurses over the next ten years. The median annual salary for these positions is just under $63,000.

It's worth noting that Mleczko's six Career Center courses are considered dual enrollment, meaning that she has been earning college credit at the same time she's been accruing her high school credits. Mleczko will have earned a total of 18 college credits by the time she graduates. This will translate into more than a semester's worth of college already completed.

There are approximately 50 such courses offered at Brattleboro Union High School and the Windham Regional Career Center, through their partnerships with a number of local colleges.

Paul Cohen can be contacted at pcohen@wsesu.org.


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