PEMBERTON — If all goes as planned, two high school seniors will be job-ready for a position in the medical field by the start of summer.

Brianna Braman and Paige Wherley, students at Pemberton Township High School, have begun an eight-week Nursing Assistant program at Deborah Heart and Lung Center, following completion of high school curricula that prepared them for the clinical experience.

"They're learning how to use all different kinds of equipment, how to take vital signs, do intake and output," said Diana Tocko, director of quality, clinical practice and education at the specialty hospital.

The internship program is unique to the region, the hospital said. It was developed over the past three years with high school faculty. Students in the high school's Medical Arts Academy who successfully complete the program will be able to work after graduation at a nonprofit health care organization, or pursue certification through the state Certified Nursing Assistant Program if they wish to do so at age 18.

Tocko noted the school has created a path for Brianna and Paige to take the certification exam so they get a head-start on the process ahead of graduation.

"They could be employed in the healthcare setting before they actually graduate," said Elisabeth McCartney, career tech educator at the high school.

McCartney said the Medical Arts Academy currently has close to 170 students. She feared she'd lose students' interest during the coronavirus pandemic, but the program actually gained a few people over the past several months.

The eight-week internship program at Deborah runs through early June.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at

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