Local organization grows interest in healthcare careers among Minnesota teens

Anthony Schaffhauser, Interim Director of Healthcare Workforce Development at HealthForce Minnesota

HealthForce Minnesota shows teens there are more opportunities in healthcare careers than what they see on television. “Most young people know about doctors and nurses, but that may be about it,” says Anthony Schaffhauser, Interim Director of Healthcare Workforce Development at HealthForce Minnesota. “There’s different careers, and we help give them exposure to other areas. Really it’s about generating a spark that will fill the pipeline for healthcare workers.”

Schaffhauser says the mission of HealthForce Minnesota is to highlight rewarding careers to young people and build the state’s healthcare workforce through education and industry partnership with local colleges and universities. Two of the organization’s most significant initiatives are Scrubs Camp and the Health Care Core Curriculum.

Engaging many partners all across the state, HealthForce Minnesota holds Scrubs Camp events every year. Scrubs Camp allows high school students and middle school students to explore healthcare careers at day camps and week-long camps. Scrubs Camp includes hands-on demonstrations, exhibits, tours of hospitals and nursing homes, and speakers and demonstrators. “It’s been going on for about ten years, and growing every year,” says Schaffhauser. “Last year, we had 19 Scrubs Camp events and over 800 attendees. We’ll probably have more than that next year.”

About half of students who attend Scrubs Camp receive a scholarship. “We want to remove those barriers to help them gain exposure to healthcare careers,” says Schaffhauser. “Especially with our middle school growth—usually students begin career exploration in 9th grade.”

Another HealthForce Minnesota initiative, Health Care Core Curriculum (HCCC), helps educate students with an interest in healthcare but no experience. Typically adopted at the high school level, the foundational introduction course of the HCCC is almost always combined with nursing assistant training. “We’re pleased that [HCCC] is set up as part of nurse assistant training,” Schaffhauser explains. “We strongly believe that if students get experience in long-term care, that’s a great introduction to healthcare and that will serve them well. There’s jobs all over the state and nearly every community, so it’s a great way to get work experience for somebody just starting out in healthcare. Students who find those jobs rewarding will probably stay in healthcare.”

Offering courses such as healthcare ethics, legal issues (including social media), and respecting client and staff diversity, the HCCC teaches behaviors needed for success in healthcare settings. “There’s a lot of flexibility with how curriculum gets used, but when a high school student with no experience gets done with this they’re certainly going to be a much better nursing assistant. The Health Care Core Curriculum covers a lot of the ‘why’ that you don’t get in a regular nursing assistant course.”

By the end of the 2015/2016 school year, 20 Minnesota high schools had adopted the HCCC. This year, 24 more high schools adopted it. “There’s certainly been growing interest,” said Schaffhauser. “What’s really helped a lot is the partnership that we have with the long-term care industry. Often a high school wouldn’t be able to offer it if [long-term care facilities] didn’t step up to provide lab space and instructors.” About a dozen colleges also offer college credit for HCCC, which helps inspire parent and student interest.

Schaffhauser says what he hears from partners who have implemented the Health Care Core Curriculum is very positive. “The feedback I get from those that adopt [the curriculum] is that we’re getting better nursing assistants, nursing assistants that are in the pipeline at a younger age than before, and we’re getting scholarships to continue healthcare field education, and that’s exactly the way we want it to work.”

HealthForce Minnesota received a career promotion grant from the Minnesota Legislature earlier this year, and plans to use it to fund public outreach. “We are well-embedded with partners in schools, so we’re hoping to get more students and parents interested,” said Schaffhauser. “We want to use social media and more media approaches that we really haven’t been able to use before.”

You can learn more about HealthForce Minnesota’s Scrubs Camps here and Health Care Core Curriculum here.

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