With futures full of possibilities, Portage High School students explored careers in healthcare in the first part of an event called Healthcare 360.
The event was organized by the Portage Economic Development Corporation (EDC) in partnership with Portage Township Schools and healthcare leaders and educators around Porter County. Students toured Porter Regional Hospital and the Valparaiso Health Center of St. Mary Medical Center, and explored jobs in laboratory settings, engineering, surgery, and even food service, among others.
“Students might think only of doctors or nurses when they think about healthcare workers. In fact, healthcare encompasses many diverse jobs and skillsets, not all of them clinical,” said Chris Sheid, Director of Marketing and Community Relations for St. Mary Medical Center. “We hope students understand healthcare is a team effort. Every role is important, and every employee is essential to caring for our patients, even those with jobs that don’t involve direct clinical care.”
The tours were very hands on, giving students the chance to actually experience the jobs. Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) walked students through CPR, lab technologists showed them how to look at blood work under a microscope, and students even handled real pig hearts to get an up-close look at the anatomy of an organ that closely resembles a human one. They also visited Ivy Tech Community College, who showcased state-of-the-art labs and equipment.
“We originally did an event at the high school and brought the healthcare facilities to the students,” said Amy Parker, Business Development Manager for the Portage EDC. “Then, we realized that we needed to take the students to the environment, to see and touch the equipment and talk to those who are currently in those careers.”
The Portage EDC works closely with the school’s guidance counselors when selecting students to participate in Healthcare 360. Some of the students chosen expressed interest in healthcare, while others were picked because they were searching for a vocation. The hands-on nature of the tours captured the crowd’s attention in a way lectures rarely do.
“It’s very exciting for all of us any time students visit our state-of-the-art lab demonstrations,” said Aco Sikoski, Chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College Valparaiso Campus. “To see the look on a student’s face when they see our ambulance simulator, for example, and realize that learning isn’t just from textbooks – it is very rewarding. It’s exciting when a student realizes a skill or career in which they can see themselves succeeding.”
Sandra Oliver, Physician Recruiter for Porter Health Care System and Board Member of the Portage EDC, believes that the main goal of Healthcare 360 is to spread awareness. Many college-bound or career-seeking students are unaware of the wide variety of options available in healthcare right in their communities.
“We are always going to need more healthcare providers, and there are opportunities for students to stay in our own community both during and after education,” Oliver said. “Healthcare brings employment, financial stability, flexibility, and an overall satisfaction that they can make a difference in someone’s life.”
The second part of Healthcare 360 takes place on May 8, when students will tour NorthShore Health Centers.