High school student Arizona McCray is among a dozen Butler Tech healthcare science students who are joining medical front-liners in helping to battle the spread of coronavirus. McCray - shown here in her personal protective equipment (PPE) - works as part of the maintenance crew cleaning up the emergency room and other patient areas at Middletown’s Atrium Medical Center. (Provided Photo/Journal-News)

Butler Tech teens among medical front-line helpers against coronavirus

When Middletown teen Arizona McCray starts her part-time shift at Atrium Medical Center cleaning the emergency room (ER) where suspected virus victims were treated, she joins doctors and nurses in donning elaborate protective protection as goes about her maintenance work.

“I’ve learned so much,” said McCray who is a student at Butler Tech’s Healthcare Science program in West Chester Twp. “And I’ve learned how diseases work.”

Like all K-12 schools in Ohio, in-person classes at Butler Tech have been closed under state orders since last month as a preventive measure.

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McCray is among a dozen Butler Tech health care students who had already finished their internship school requirements. They were since hired as a part-time hospital maintenance workers or as workers in nursing homes as they finish their senior year academic requirements from home learning remotely.

“Butler Tech has suspended all job shadowing and clinical experiences because of restrictions in place due to COVID-19,” said Sally Muenchen, a registered nurse and Butler Tech Healthcare Science Program Instructor.

“Fortunately many of our students had already completed the requirements to earn their (work) credentials and are now working as front-line employees in hospitals and nursing homes throughout the tri-county area.”

The coronavirus is a deadly, worldwide pandemic but it’s also a learning experience for teens like McCray training for careers in healthcare, said Muenchen.

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“A large part of our curriculum involves infection control, the proper use and indications for PPE (personal protection equipment) and public health. I think our students feel empowered by the information they’ve learned at Butler Tech and are better equipped both physically and mentally to deal with the challenges we are facing due to Covid-19,” she said.

A.J. Huff, spokeswoman for Butler Tech – which is one of the largest career school systems in Ohio – said hundreds of high school students in a variety of career learning programs are continuing to work during the coronavirus shutdowns in permitted jobs involving their field of study.

“We have a large number of students utilizing their training from Butler Tech on the front lines during this pandemic. From the medical field at hospitals and nursing homes to students working in manufacturing, food service and various service industries, our students are using the skills attained in their career tech programs to work,” said Huff.

“We are even aware of situations where our students may be the only person in their household currently working as so many parents and family members have become unemployed. We are so proud of these students and know that they are already making an impact on this world,” she said.

McCray, who will start the fall as a freshman at the University of Dayton studying pre-med and biology, appreciates her unusual experiences.

“I’ve always wanted to go into medicine and now I understand first-hand all the safety circumstances in hospital. And since all this has gone on … it has made me want to directly help patients more in the future than just cleaning their hospital rooms,” she said.

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