Health Science programs offers interaction-based learning 



UNK offers two related yet different programs for health students to take: The Kearney Health Opportunities Program and the Health Science Explorers program.

KHOP is the primary healthcare education program between UNK and UNMC. 

The program’s purpose is to get premed majors like pre-nursing freshman Mitchel Beeson prepared for medical school.

“KHOP has been an amazing opportunity,” Beeson said. “It has gotten me experience working that I would have never had and has gotten me onto a really smooth path going into professional school.”

According to junior psychobiology major Kate McFarland, KHOP exists to bring medical students to rural Nebraska and give them the resources to train since there is a shortage of medical professionals in the state.

“It was amazing to me how much need there was for people to come back to rural Nebraska and practice,” McFarland said. “It’s such a nice homey feel; that’s what I love about Nebraska.”

KHOP has its students do a lot of job shadowing which, according to Beeson, is more important than the knowledge gained from books and classes.

“A lot of it is just patient interaction and seeing what a nurse does on the job because you can read descriptions as much as you want, but unless you are there in person you don’t really know what is going on,” Beeson said.

Beeson said that patient contact has been his favorite part of the job with his experience in shadowing nurses.

“A doctor will prescribe them medication and make them feel better and different physicians will do different activities with them, but the nurse is the person spending the most time with the patient and is really doing the most to make their stay as comfortable as possible,” Beeson said.

There is a sense of pride that comes with successfully helping patients out.

“As you work with those people, it’s a large feeling of gratification being able to work with them and make their lives better at their lowest low,” Beeson said.

Medical professionals need a lot of emotional strength to deal with the situations that they face nearly every day.

“It’s a lot of emotions since you deal with people who are sick and are dying, and for some of the people it is the worst point in their lives,” Beeson said.

The schooling at UNK is especially valuable since it lets premed students specialize their skill sets for future careers and further education. 

“Being a pre-nursing major, I can’t get a minor but I can focus on classes that work on specific things like counseling skills,” Beeson said.

Health Science Explorers is the other health education program UNK offers. Compared to KHOP, this program is more focused on getting students to experiment with possible healthcare jobs and volunteer for the local community. However, unlike KHOP, it does not guarantee admission into UNMC.

“It has been a great experience being there so far,” said freshman pre-nursing major Litzy Rodriguez. “I’ve met so many people and learned about different health professions.”

Another benefit of the Health Science Explorers program is that it helps recruit and get high school students into the program before they even get to college. Skylar Summers is a high school senior going to UNK next fall to start majoring in pre-med. During her year in the program, she has gone to UNK and UNMC to meet the professors and faculty that she would work with.

“I think it is a great route for med majors to take,” Summers said.

Last year, Summers had an important experience that solidified her desire in wanting to be a medical student.

“I was hospitalized and had surgery last year and that really sealed my want to go into the medical field,” Summers said.

Rodriguez enjoys training for nursing more because of the career fluidity it offers.

“I decided against being a physician just because of the schooling, but I found out that with nursing you can go out into a lot of different avenues,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said she had the inspiration to help people medically since she was young.

“I have known since I was little and was like ‘I wanna be a doctor, I wanna be a doctor,’” Rodrigues said. “It’s pretty cliche, but it’s true for me,” Rodriguez said.

She was also further inspired by an experience with a neonatal intensive care unit nurse.

“I recall an instance when I went to job shadow at CHI Saint Francis and I shadowed a NICU nurse,” Rodriguez said. “I went in and she sat me down and we just talked about my interests and everything she does on a daily basis. 

Rodrigues said she got to witness the nurse take care of one of the babies. 

“There was just one and it was so quiet and peaceful,” Rodriguez said. “…just seeing her checking the monitors and doing everything that she needed to do to make sure that the baby was OK. It was just so enlightening and it opened my eyes to what nursing can be and the responsibility of being a nurse.”

The Health Science Explorers program has helped Rodriguez improve herself and her ability to talk to people.

“It made me more comfortable talking to people, which is good because that has always been something that bothers me,” Rodriguez said. “But being in Health Science Explorers has helped me get out of my comfort zone and learn about a lot of different things.” 

Rodriguez found out about both KHOP and Health Science Explorers when looking for communities before coming to campus.

“I was looking on the website and looking at different learning communities for me, specific to my major, and I found KHOP and Health Science Explorers,” Rodriguez said. “They both seemed really interesting to me. I applied to both and I sadly didn’t get into KHOP, but I got into Health Science Explorers.”

Despite not getting into KHOP, Rodriguez still finds enjoyment in Health Science Explorers since it puts less pressure on her.

“I will still get to do a bunch of things and it is super fun to learn about a bunch of local places in Kearney in regards to health sciences,” Rodriguez said. 

She also stresses that despite what some people might think, one of the programs is not better than the other.

“Sometimes students may think that Health Science Explorers is like a lesser version of KHOP and, truly, that is not the case,” Rodriguez said.

The programs work with each other relatively often.

“We have also elaborated with KHOP and we have gone through the same presentations,” Rodriguez said. 

In the Health Science Explorers, students are able to talk about local places and new professions every week in and after meetings.

“I have met some local businesses like the chiropractic place,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve gone to the hospital and learned about different professions.”