BY DAVID JAMES HEISS
It’s gratifying for Kiara Bobier to see clients’ improvements when they come in for physical therapy at Marketplace Physical Therapy in Beaumont.
Bobier is a senior at Beaumont High School, aspiring to one day become a nurse, though for awhile she had expressed an interest in becoming a physical therapist, and seems pleased to have received experience as an intern, which was arranged through the high school’s Career Technical Education Department.
The therapists at Marketplace Physical Therapy & Wellness Center at 1620 E. 2nd St. (Suite I) in Beaumont have been giving her light tasks as she conducts her observations.
Bobier has been entrusted with activities such as prepping clients for electronic stimulation sessions, and casual cleaning.
She is hoping the University of California, Riverside, or California State University, San Bernardino, accepts her as a nursing student.
The collaborative resulted from a lot of reaching out to medical facilities during a pandemic to find organizations willing to allow students to get in-person real world experience.
Only two offered to take in students: Marketplace Physical Therapy and Rancho Paseo Medical Group, which was a relief for Susan Aguilar-Martinez, Beaumont High School’s career readiness coordinator who is serving her first year in that position.
“This was a brand new program, and everything had to be established from scratch,” Aguilar-Martinez says. “The biggest challenge by far was: while many organizations wanted to partner with us, they were still not able to have volunteers — especially students — come into their work sites,” she says. “The medical organizations have largely been working under very tight restrictions, and I was getting a lot of ‘noes’ in the beginning. It was almost looking like students would not be able to do their in-person internships due to COVID.”
She credits Rancho Paseo Medical Group and Marketplace Physical Therapy for signing contracts “without hesitation.”
At Marketplace Physical Therapy, several therapists tag along with Bobier as a reporter accompanies her around their workplace.
“I’ve been shadowing the staff and watching them” as they go about their work, Bobier says. “I’ve gotten to know some of the patients and observed their progress,” Bobier says.
Ezequiel Rivera, a physical therapist assistant, enjoys the helping hand.
“We’ve had a few observational interns on rotation, though they’re usually PT students” in college, Rivera says.
Further, “Patients enjoy seeing younger people in here, and are always willing to share their experience and stories with them, which adds an element of positivity and community connection,” Rivera adds.
Dr. Courtney Ellstrom, the director of the clinic for Marketplace Physical Therapy, confirms: “This is the first time having high school students” participate at their location. “It’s been pretty cool having them.”
Aguilar-Martinez has been sifting through exit surveys for students participating in the internships, and will use the information to “better communicate with future worksites to give more specific job descriptions and tasks that students can be expected to perform.”
Hopefully, she says, the experiences will lead to letters of recommendations for future jobs and college applications.
And, Aguilar-Martinez hopes, gives them some life skills: “Maybe they learn how to be part of a team, or learn to make on-the-spot decisions,” she says. “They definitely will benefit from hands-one experience when working with patients, and maybe build communications skills through those interactions with patients and staff.”