Students Explore Health Care Careers On the Road, In the Sky and Beyond

Kyais Ondari has set his sights on a career in forensic pathology, but for now, the William Penn High School senior hopes to take the first steps in his health care career as an emergency medical technician.

That’s why Ondari jumped at the chance to climb inside the ChristianaCare ambulance parked outside the John H. Ammon Education Center during the 10th annual William Penn Healthcare Career Day. After seeing the ambulance equipment and what it’s like to walk in the life-saving shoes of ChristianaCare’s EMTs and emergency nurses, Ondari saw his career horizon widen.

Dusty Sweetman, assistant nurse manager, shows students Emmanual Shomide, left, and Kellie Letran, right, some of the equipment inside the ambulance.

“When I initially came here, I wasn’t considering nursing, but now I could see it as a viable option,” said Ondari, who is part of the Allied Health program at William Penn, part of Delaware’s Colonial School District.

“I think what is surprising to me is that this opened me to other opportunities that I wouldn’t even have thought about.”

In the sky, on the road

About 100 William Penn students attended the Oct. 27 Healthcare Career Day, which began 10 years ago as way to get students thinking about their life after high school.

As part of the day’s events, students took selfies of themselves inside the ChristianaCare LifeNet helicopter and heard the challenges of providing care in a small space – while also in the sky.

William Penn High School students like Sophia Mgbechinyere found themselves sitting in the pilot’s seat – literally – during the 10th annual Healthcare Career Day.

They saw the medical equipment packed into a ChristianaCare ambulance – and asked questions about the skills needed to transport and care for patients while on the road.

“For our students, the more exposure they have in health care, the more connections they make with their future employers,” said Missy Slattery, MEd., an allied health teacher who also works as a technician in ChristianaCare’s Cardiovascular Lab.

William Penn High School allied health teacher Amy Slama, left, said teachers organize the annual career day program so students like Jazmen Davis, right, can see their options available after high school.

“We want them to get this experience and talk to those people who can help thehm grow their network.”

Seeing ‘What’s Out There’

Students also heard from alumni already working in health care as EMTs, operating room nurses and in research.

For students like Jazmen Davis, who wants to be a labor and delivery nurse or work in pediatrics, the alumni panel helped bring their classroom learning to life.

“It’s good to see what’s out there and the opportunities that we can connect with,” said Davis, a William Penn senior.

Catherine Shull Fernald, chief nursing officer, Newark and Middletown campuses, told students “it is a privilege to take care of somebody” and help them get well.

Speaking to the students, Catherine Shull Fernald, DNP, RN, RNC-OB, NEA-BC, FACHE, chief nursing officer, Newark and Middletown campuses, said their interest in health care offers them a chance to make a difference each day.

“You are taking care of people who are at their most vulnerable. They are sick, they’re uncomfortable and they trust us to take care of them in their most dire times,” Fernald said.

“I will tell you that it is a privilege to take care of somebody and to be able to help them get well so that they can be their best self.”

An ongoing partnership

Career Day is among several partnerships ChristianaCare has undertaken with local schools to help develop a future health care workforce. At William Penn, that also includes the Nursing Career Collaborative, a partnership that gives students an in-depth look at what it means to be a nurse.

Alumni of William Penn High School who are working in health care talked with students about their roles and offered tips to help jump start their career. From left to right: Janelys Lanzo Sanchez; Aaron McNett, EMT; Corey Screven, nurse practitioner; Jess Evans, nurse at ChristianaCare and EMT; and Tony Trujillo, nurse at ChristianaCare.

Barbara Feeny, MSN, NPD-BC, MEDSURG-BC, HN-BC, a nursing professional development manager with the Institute for Learning, Leadership & Development (iLEAD), said these kind of pipeline programs are critical to engaging young people.

“We want to make the most of these opportunities to interact with students and help them figure out that health care is the way to go,” Feeny said.