High school senior Brandon Holly already is on his way to a career in health. He’ll be heading to the University of Delaware this fall to study nursing. But within that broad field, he’s not sure what kind of job he wants to pursue.
He was among hundreds of students who signed up for Christiana Care’s Health Career Exploration Program, held March 28 at the John H. Ammon Medical Education Center, to learn about the wide array of opportunities open to them.
Brandon was accompanied by his brother, Sean, a high school sophomore who also is interested in medicine.
“I’m trying to decide what path I want to take,” Sean said.
The event was designed to attract just such inquisitive young people. As part of ensuring future quality care for Delaware’s residents, Christiana Care is engaged in an ongoing effort to cultivate the state’s next health professionals.
“We want to educate and employ our local talent so they don’t have to leave Delaware. This is one way we serve our neighbors,” said Dana Beckton, director of Diversity and Inclusion for Christiana Care. “We look at this as a continuum – how do we connect students to education and jobs?”
The first step, she said, is showing them the bigger picture of health careers, which aren’t filled only by doctors and nurses. This was demonstrated by the variety of more than 40 vendors – including departments within the health system – who manned tables and held a half-dozen information sessions. Among them were the U.S. Navy, Christiana Care Public Safety, patient interpreters, paramedics, nutrition and dietetics, pastoral services and more. They informed students about what educational qualifications their careers entailed, and institutions that provide that education were on hand to talk about the programs they offer and their requirements.
“We want to show them what’s outside the traditional box,” said event organizer Consuella Petty, Diversity and Inclusion specialist at Christiana Care. “If you’re studying marketing or developing computer software, there’s an opportunity here to find out how to practice your skills in a hospital.”
Cherelle Chambers, a student in the University of Delaware’s accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program, who was staffing a table, was eager to impart how rewarding and versatile a health career can be.
“You can do anything you really want to do,” said Chambers, who was inspired by the nurses who cared for her grandparents at the ends of their lives. “You can be a politician, a doctor – you can put your skills to use doing anything.”
Christiana Care radiation therapists Susan Day, RT (T), and Kathy Aufiero, RT (T), spoke with students at a table displaying some of the technological equipment used to treat people with life-threatening tumors. Their jobs involve a lot of “caring and giving,” they said, which also is what they find rewarding.
“Our patients are very sick and very scared,” Day said.
“It’s life-changing for them,” Aufiero added. Students who aspire to their line of work tend to be good at math and physics, she said. “You have to understand how the linear accelerator works,” she said, speaking of the machine they use to deliver radiation therapy to a patient’s tumor.
Kylie Lavelle, a University of Delaware freshman who has not yet declared a major, said she was drawn to radiology and occupational therapy but was surprised to learn how varied the opportunities for a health career could be. She hadn’t before thought of patient interpreters or pastoral services, for example.
“I’m hoping to find some shadowing opportunities,” she said.
Her father, state Sen. Greg Lavelle, said such events are important for the future of health care in Delaware and its residents.
“It’s good to provide this opportunity for young people who might not know what’s out there,” Sen. Lavelle said.