District 51 students tour hospital

CHRISTOPHER TOMLINSON/The Daily SentinelJeff Amans, radiology director at Community Hospital, speaks with School District 51 high schoolers during Career Day at the hospital last week. During the day, the students learned about the wide range of careers available in the health care field.


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Health care jobs you may not have never heard of:

• Recreation therapists: Otherwise known as therapeutic recreation specialists, these therapists offer treatment and services to patients with disabilities or illnesses. In hospitals, recreation therapists treat patients in conjunction with hospital staff. In long-term living centers, recreation therapists lead group activities. They can help clients navigate public transportation, lead outings and assist clients emotional well-being through self-esteem building and motor-function recovery. A bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation is required. Median annual pay is about $33,000.

• Psychiatric nurse: Do you like figuring out how people tick and helping them overcome obstacles? Psychiatric nurses work in a variety of settings helping patients with mental illness or those who are under mental distress. Psych nurses train in psychological therapies, deal with challenging behaviors and can administer psychiatric medication. Basic level nurses’ earnings start at between $35,000–$45,000, but advanced practice registered nurses, who have master’s degrees in psychiatric mental health nursing, can earn $60,000 or more. 

• Radiologic technologist: If you like playing video games, this career may be up your alley. These health care professionals prepare patients for procedures, position patients and conduct diagnostic imaging exams. Some specialize in performing CT (computed tomography) exams or MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) or mammography. Training for radiology careers include either a certificate, an associate degree or bachelor’s degree. Median annual pay is about $55,210.

• Health care sales: Instead of being tethered to one hospital or a medical care facility, travel and sell new medical products with this profession. Becoming a health care sales representative, or rep, as they’re called, usually requires a degree in the medical field or health sciences. Health care agencies are always seeking the latest technological advances to increase patient care and the medical products industry is flush with new inventions and in need of an increasing cache of workers. Annual salaries range from about $40,000 on up.

Central High School sophomore Ivy Espinoza dreams of becoming a pediatrician.

“I like kids and I want to save their lives and help them out,” she said last week while touring Community Hospital.

Espinoza was one of about 80 sophomores and juniors from District 51 to participate in a whirlwind tour of many of the hospital’s departments for a career day. The students were chosen to attend after indicating their desire to pursue careers in the health industry.

That desire is a good thing, too. It largely will be up to the younger generations to help alleviate the nation’s looming shortage of health care workers, shortages that are only expected to widen as baby boomers age.

That the health care field is ripe for a workforce infusion wasn’t lost on the students at the career day. It was the goal of the hospital’s workers to show students the wide range of health care careers available and how those careers can be tailored to almost any personality.

“It’s different than corporate America,” said Katherine Cholet, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in the science of nursing, while addressing the students. “If you get tired of living in one place you can pick up the phone and call a nursing agency and say, ‘I want to move someplace else.’ ” You can work night shifts if you’re a night owl. You can travel the world.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 600,000 new registered nurse positions will be created through 2018, a profession slated to grow faster on average than other careers.

Cholet told students that, in general, nurses should enjoy working with people. However, the field is vast, and there are a range of nursing opportunities that stretch well beyond hospital bedside nursing. That range includes working as a legal nurse consultant who deciphers medical terms for attorneys, a trauma nurse who stabilizes patients on emergency in-air flights and a nurse who chooses to work in a quiet environment, putting in time at a lab.

Other fields, such as primary-care physicians and home health aides, also are expected to face shortages. An estimated 150,000 physician shortages are expected in the next 15 years, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Though many medical careers require college courses and certifications, high school students do have opportunities to volunteer or conduct internships, Community Hospital staff said.

By doing those things, students can see whether they would really like working in the health care field and, if so, may be better able to pinpoint an area in which to specialize.

“If you want to be part of something really big, that’s bigger than you, you want to be part of health care,” said Dr. Donald Nicolay, Community Hospital’s chief medical officer. “I would sort of tell you not to follow the career with the most money, follow the one that you have the most passion about.”


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