Sprague Physical Therapy program shows career possibilities

This story is the first in a series of stories about Career-Technical Education published 
in partnership with the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce.

Lance Blankenship has a goal. He’s decided to pursue a career in the field of medicine, but he still needs a little help deciding which career path to follow.

Lance is taking advantage of one of Salem-Keizer Public Schools’ Career Technical Education programs and is finding the guidance he needs.

Currently a junior, Lance is enrolled in Sprague's Health Services Physical Therapy Program, taught by Amy West and Jamie Ellis. The program is preparing him to follow any of a wide range of possible career paths in the industry, such as physical therapist, athletic trainer or physician’s assistant.

Sprague’s program is a four-year progression through courses that cover medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, ethics, sports medicine, and diseases in medical science. Many of the classes offer college credit through a partnership with Chemeketa Community College.

Lance was first inspired to explore medicine as a career by his mother. His mom works in a doctor’s office and encouraged him to consider entering the field. After a conversation with Amy, Lance was motivated to enter the Sprague program. He’s currently studying advanced sports medicine and has a practicum after school in the sports training room where he helps athletes before and after sports practice.

View photos of Lance at work on Flickr »

Lance says, “I like that the practicum gives me a chance to be hands-on. I like the real experience and the chance to relate to the athletes.” An athlete himself, Lance plays football and participates in track and field.

Lance says he’s interested in the field because it’s a chance to help people. He also sees the field as a pathway to support his hopes for a family and stability in adulthood.

“This program is helping me sort out what I want to do in medicine in the future,” says Lance. “I’m thinking about either sports medicine or physician’s assistant.”

With high school graduation still more than a year away, Lance hasn’t yet decided where to attend college, but has visited programs at Western Oregon University and Linfield College. While he weighs options, he’s gaining valuable skills for his future in the workforce. The program also arms students with skills that will translate into any work environment, like resume writing, interviewing skills and teamwork.

“We educate the kids on key employability traits like responsibility, teamwork and time management,” says Amy. “I stress the importance of honesty, and want them to embrace their personal responsibility and learn the importance of follow-through.”

Students also learn how to present themselves to an employer and request a job shadow. “Community partners provide job shadow opportunities and they open the students’ eyes to the range of career possibilities. They are so important to our program.”

Amy also feels that more relationships with medical clinics, dentists or others in the field would benefit the students. Current partnerships with Salem Health, Hope Orthopedics, local doctors, dentists, Linfield College and Chemeketa Community College provide vital ties to the community.

Sprague’s Health Services Physical Therapy Program ends with college credit, which gives students a head-start on the path to a future certification or college degree. But to Amy, the benefits don’t end there. “Through the combination of classes, students in the program leave with an understanding of anatomy, they’ll be able to recognize injuries, they’ll have job skills – all these things can be applied to anything in life.”

To learn more about Career Technical Education opportunities in Salem-Keizer Public Schools, please contact Sharleen Grove, CTE coordinator, at 503-399-3075.

Vision and CTE logos