Students Helping Students: Aspiring Medical Workers Get Hands-On Practice Performing Vision and Hearing Tests across FCPS

By Office of Communication and Community Relations
October 13, 2021

One by one, seventh and eighth grade students at Holmes Middle School line up their toes behind a piece of blue tape on the floor of an empty classroom. Straight ahead is a chart with several rows of the letter ‘E’ facing all different directions. It’s confusing at first glance, but a 17-year-old in blue scrubs is there to help. 

“Okay, use your hand to cover up one eye. And just point whichever direction the ‘E’ is facing. Up, down, left, or right.”

A Medical Assistant student gives an eye exam at Holmes Middle School.
Medical Assistant student Zahra Aladhab gives an vision exam at Holmes Middle School.

The girl in the blue scrubs is a high school student enrolled in the Medical Assistant class at Falls Church Academy. She and her classmates are getting hands-on practice while helping with routine vision and hearing screenings that happen every year for FCPS students. The screenings are required for students in Kindergarten, third, seventh, and tenth grades, but the COVID pandemic forced last year’s screenings to be postponed for those in virtual learning; so this year, there are hundreds of additional students being screened. The Medical Assistant students, along with Public Health nurses from the Fairfax County Health Department are working together to get the job done. 

“It’s mutually beneficial because students get real experience and we get much needed assistance for the screenings,” said Public Health Nurse Julie Smith. “At some schools we will screen over 700 students. That would be impossible without the assistance of our Academy students.”

A nurse reviews how to do an eye exam with Falls Church Academy Medical Assistant students.
A nurse reviews how to do a vision exam with Falls Church Academy Medical Assistant students. 

Fairfax High School senior Zahra Aladhab wants to work as a medical assistant once she enters college. She says doing these vital exams on students is a great opportunity to practice her medical skills, while also improving her social skills. 

“It helps a lot because it teaches you how to communicate with others,” Zahra said. “We have to have good communication skills to work in the health field.”

Lake Braddock senior Charlize Telleria wants to be a pediatric nurse one day. She says her class prepared for the school screenings by practicing the exams on each other, but she’s happy she’s now able to perform the tests on younger students. 

“We need to practice with a variety of ages because older kids might be perfectly fine and may have already caught their vision and hearing impairments, but little kids might not have figured it out yet,” Charlize added. 

If a student fails the vision test, a parent or a guardian is emailed that day with recommendations for more in-depth screenings with a health care provider. For a failed hearing test, the students are re-screened a few weeks later (sometimes a cold or allergies can cause difficulty hearing). If they fail the hearing test again, a parent or guardian receives a referral email.

Anushka Parashar, a junior at Mclean High School, says it’s important for students to be aware of their vision and hearing abilities. 

“If students have a hard time seeing or hearing they can get the help they need and then they can improve their learning environment and their life in general,” Anushka said. “I really enjoy going out and helping out whenever I can, so I’m really happy I got the opportunity to help today.”

Medical Assistant student Anushka Parashar gets ready to give a hearing exam at Holmes Middle School.
Medical Assistant student Anushka Parashar prepares to give a hearing exam at Holmes Middle School.

The Medical Assistant course is offered to FCPS juniors and seniors. Students also learn CPR, First Aid, EKG, cardiovascular tests, respiratory tests, and more. Students have the opportunity to get a number of certifications and can take a test to become a Certified Clinical Medical Assistant. Find out more about the course on the Falls Church Academy website

The screenings are led by FCHD Public Health Nurses, who guide the students and oversee the testing. Together, they promote a safe and healthy educational environment. You can read more about the School Health Services Program on the Health Department’s website.