Victoria Jimenez, 15, a junior at Windsor High School, has been interested in the field of medicine for a long time but hasn’t had many opportunities to learn what it’s really like to be a medical professional.
“You get an idea of what being a doctor is like on TV shows, and I know it’s completely different than that,” she said.
Jimenez was one of roughly 200 students from 5 Northern California high schools who last month participated in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Nurse Scholars Academy’s annual Youth Career Day. The hybrid virtual and in-person event exposes youth interested in health care careers to diverse opportunities in the industry through realistic, interactive scenarios and simulations.
Students also heard from health care professionals about their personal journeys into nursing, mental health, medicine, phlebotomy, and other fields.
“During the pandemic, students lacked exposure to in-person career development opportunities, so this year’s career day was even more meaningful,” said Nikki West, Health Care Education Management director for Kaiser Permanente Northern California. “It’s so important to give young people who are interested in health care the opportunity to engage with professionals who were once in their position of figuring out next steps.”
The goal of the event is to help meet the health care needs of the future by building a workforce with the right experiences, skills, and cultural diversity to provide care for all.
Forging their own path
Jimenez said she participated in the career day because, “there are not a lot of women, and particularly women of color, in the field, and I want to change that.”
The media center at Windsor High School in Sonoma County was filled with energetic juniors and seniors who engaged in multiple activities during the 3-hour event. A group of about 5 Kaiser Permanente Northern California employees facilitated along with a virtual host from Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre program.
A cup stacking challenge had students mimic the teamwork and communication skills used by a surgical team. Other activities included mental health care scenarios, tasks that showcased various elements of jobs including, ultrasound tech, phlebotomist, and medical assistant. A virtual panel of clinical and non-clinical health care professionals discussing their pathway into the field was also presented.
This was interesting to 16-year-old Kai Clifton. “There are so many different jobs I didn’t know about,” he said. “It opened my eyes to what’s out there, which is cool.”
Growing a diverse workforce
The annual Youth Career Day launched in 2013, and prior to the pandemic, was held at Kaiser Permanente’s Garfield Innovation Center in San Leandro, California. Students were bused in from high schools throughout the Bay Area to participate in hands-on scenarios and simulations.
“There is such a great need for health care providers right now,” said West. “With Youth Career Day we are trying to bridge that gap by building a diverse and qualified pipeline of professionals.”
One student already on her way to meeting that need is Michelle Adutwum, currently a freshman enrolled in the pre-med program at Johns Hopkins University focused on becoming a gynecology. She attended last year’s Youth Career Day in San Lorenzo, California as a senior in high school.
“Having these events makes education about health care accessible to everyone,” she said. “Getting that firsthand look at what health care has to offer cemented my decision to study medicine.”