Demand for scientists, engineers, and medical professionals is growing at a rapid pace, but there is a marked shortage of students graduating with STEM backgrounds who can fill these roles. Programs are popping up all over the country to engage students more specifically in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math.
One such program is the Health Scholar program, which gives high school students the opportunity to become a part of the patient-care team and gain invaluable hands-on experience working alongside medical professionals.
Health Scholar participants begin the program with a a 3-week training that prepares them for the complexities of their role. Participants are given opportunities to shadow a nurse and interact with patients, and rotate between all floors of a hospital. This kind of hands-on experience is unique in that it allows young students to gain invaluable insight into different specialties and learn about the various roles within a hospital system.
Natalie Arellano, a member of the Medelita team, was profoundly impacted by her experience with the Health Scholar program, which she was able to participate in from 2009 to 2013. Arellano's work with the program gave her exposure to patients, suppliers, administrators, nurses, and physicians. She was able to immerse herself in the daily operations of the hospital, which gave her a new understanding and appreciation for the complexities of the healthcare industry.
"The Health Scholar program gave me a behind-the-scenes look at what it means to work in healthcare," said Arellano. "Before that I had only experienced it from the perspective of a patient. Most patients probably don't realize all the hard work that medical professionals put into caring for their patients. Working alongside hospital staff gave me a new appreciation for employees such as nurses, laundry room workers, and even janitors, who often go under-recognized for their work but who are truly indispensable to make the hospital run properly."
The leadership behind the Health Scholar program recognizes the importance of giving future medical professionals a comprehensive look at what it really means to work in healthcare.
According to Arellano, "What makes the Health Scholar program special is that you get to learn about the science behind medical decisions, but you also get the chance to interact with patients one-on-one. I think it's really important for all future doctors to have exposure to the human side of medicine as well as the science behind it."