Editor's note: This story is part of the Republican Eagle 2018 Progress Edition showcasing area students, staff and seniors. Find the rest of the series here.

A group of high school seniors are trading the classroom for the emergency room for an inaugural health care career shadowing program at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing.

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A total of nine young women are taking part in the program. Wearing Winger purple scrubs, the students have been rotating through departments and learning firsthand from medical staff.

"It's a really good experience for them to get behind the scenes," Red Wing High School teacher Janean Robert said. Her students keep a daily journal of the experience and will make a presentation at the end of the school year focusing on one aspect of the program they found most interesting.

The group meets for an hour weekday mornings at the medical center.

On a Thursday last month, it was student Tianna Grabko's turn to learn from staff in the radiology department. She observed alongside radiologic technologists Somdet Khamda and Jordan Pieters.

Khamda said it would have been helpful for him as a high school senior to participate in a shadowing program, noting the only regret he has about his career choice is that he didn't get started with it sooner.

Upstairs in the hospital, Kylie Aadalen was learning from social worker Teri Johnson.

Meanwhile Dana Seamans and Candace Jackson were getting a demonstration of a mechanical chest compression device from ER technician Ryan Marking.

As the clock ticked a few minutes past 9 a.m., students agreed it was a fast hour.

Real-world experience

Robert said the program provides valuable real-world experience and an opportunity for students to explore a range of health care career options.

For Seamans, who was originally interested in sonography, the program has changed her mind about what she wants to do after graduation.

"Seeing how there are so many different departments a nurse can be in, I'm kind of interested in nursing," Seamans said. "It's nice to have options."

The career shadowing concept is similar to programs at other Mayo Clinic Health System sites, and fits into Mayo's mission to teach, Dr. David Farrar said. The gastroenterologist added it has been inspiring to see the students interacting with staff.

"I've heard very good things from managers and nurses," Farrar said about the students. "It's been nice having their enthusiasm."

Word of the program has started to spread through the high school as well. Robert said more than a couple dozen students have already voiced interest in signing up for it next year.