Students know there are many kinds of health care careers other than just a doctor or a nurse, but they often don't know a lot more than that.
Once you start digging deeper, you realize there are hundreds of options. Even within the nursing profession alone, there is a huge variety of jobs. And students who don't consider health care perhaps don't know the incredible range of careers in the field. For example, some students may not want to work directly with patients/clients, but there is a whole set of healthcare occupations that don't require direct contact with people, such as medical research, epidemiology, biomedical engineering, and health education and policy. I categorize these kinds of health careers as 'hands-off', as opposed to the more traditional 'hands-on' careers (meaning those with direct patient or client care).
Any way you slice it, health care careers are a great choice for many people. They are some of the most rewarding, lucrative and in-demand jobs right now, and – as labour statistics tell us – they will very likely continue to be so in the future, as well.
So what are the best ways for high school students to prepare (or at least keep the door open) for careers in health professions?
1. Keep up with sciences in high school. This comes as no surprise, and you've probably heard it a million times, but that’s because it’s true. Working toward good grades in math (pre-cal/calculus), biology, chemistry, and physics will keep all options open. If students don’t have physics and pre-cal math, but still have academic math and biology and chemistry, some options will still be open.
2. Investigate different kinds of health care careers. Read, watch career-related video interviews, do information interviews, and so on. Try to narrow down the field. Take time to do this now, before you invest 4-10+ years in post-secondary education.
3. Do some online career exploration exercises, like those in Career Cruising to see if health care professions are a good match for your interests, skills, and abilities. Note: some students may have already taken a quiz in Career Cruising in grade 9 or 10, but they can still get something out of it – probably a lot more, in fact - by doing it again in grade 11 and/or 12.
4. Volunteer in a hospital/health care setting, e.g. nursing home. Watch what people do in different jobs. Get a feel for the work environment. Or, if you’re interested in research, sign up to be a research study participant.
Lastly, as with all career exploration, students should take some time to reflect on why they are interested in a health career. Is it just because it’s a 'safe bet'? This can be one reason, but it shouldn’t be the only reason. Loving (or at least liking) what you do is an important part of any person’s career choice, but it’s especially important for potential health care professionals.
For more reading, see the website ExploreHealthCareers.org.