ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The medical field is well-known for it’s high barrier for entry. Students spend copious amounts of time and money before they’re able to begin healing the world of its ails. For students of Premier High School in Abilene, that pathway is made a much more accessible goal. With some guidance, these students will be helping at a real blood drive.

“Without this class, I think it would be very hard to get where you want to be, because when you take this class, you just have a lot of help and a lot of guidance… So, without it, I’d probably be a little lost,” vouched Premier High junior, Kaiden Newby.

These students may come from different backgrounds, but agreed that they’ve found a career path and a realistic way to achieve their goals through the school.

“I actually was developing, well I’ll just say disorders that were affecting my quality of life drastically, and I needed a change of pace,” Premier High senior, Michael Hernandez shared. “I found Premier, which not only helped me improve mentally, but also actually greatly improved my grades and where I’m at today.”

No matter their pasts, their futures are bright with possibilities opened to them, which might have been unattainable through traditional educational means.

“It means a lot to me because healthcare means a lot to me, and to teach them how to do healthcare the right way instead of taking shortcuts,” said Program instructor and Premier Campus Nurse, Christine O’Shields, RN.

O’Shields came to the school in 2020, leaving the professional medical field after 30 years as a nurse to become the school’s campus nurse during the COVID-19 pandemic. She told KTAB/KRBC it was during that time that the Medical Assistant Program was born.

Staying on through the pandemic, O’Shields said this program became very important to her, as she’s been able to help young students make the career choices she grappled with some 30 years ago.

“It’s really rewarding to show them this direction in life,” O’Shields said.

Although the program began small with only six students, Premier now has 12 graduating this year. O’Shields said she would like to see that number grow because her students come out the other side as Certified Medical Assistants ready to enter the field or continue their medical education – all at no cost to them.

“I plan on going in to biomedical engineering as a profession, working with prosthetic limbs and organs,” said Premier High senior, Dominic Alcorta.

Michael told KTAB/KRBC his plans for the future, “I intend to focus on a career in physical therapy… Just generally helping people improve their quality of life.”

“I’m looking forward to a career in the mental health type of medical field,” added Kaiden.

In a real-world setting, O’Shields said her students learn to draw blood and interact with patients. As part of this training, they will be observing the Hendrick Regional Blood Center professionals as they conduct an on-campus blood drive at 9:00 a.m. Thursday, February 23.

The students will not be participating in the actual drawing of the blood but observing the professionals and helping to run the drive as needed.