Early morning shift-change at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, CA – nurses huddle reviewing patient notes, physicians begin their daily rounds, administrators start their patient experience meetings, nutrition staff passes out breakfast trays, and Environmental Service workers begin room turnover. The hospital is alive with activity.
The COPE Health Scholars are also beginning their day. These individuals, ranging in age from 18 to well past 60, are enrolled in COPE Health Solutions’ series of experiential learning health care programs. They shift alongside staff to deliver patient care, gaining valuable health care exposure, education, and career development. Easily identifiable by their khaki pants, navy polo shirts, and eager-to-learn smiles, they are a unique part of the
National employment in the health care field is expected to grow 18 percent by 2026, creating an abundance of health care related jobs and careers. For individuals looking to enter the field, it is becoming increasingly important to not only understand if a career in health care is right for them, but also in which area they wish to specialize.
Providing diverse experiences for pre-health individuals and helping them find the right role in health care is central to the COPE Health Scholars program. The core 15-month program provides individuals the ability to progress through a structured tier system that is designed to expose them to clinical areas in both an inpatient and ambulatory setting. Typical rotations across the care continuum include medical surgical nursing units, the operating room and outpatient clinics. Individuals can also opt to experience administrative areas, such as human resources and risk management. The education students receive in the program also extends beyond their shifts, as the program fosters continual learning by engaging Scholars in community projects and professional
Due to the time and financial investment that is associated with pursuing a career in health care, experiential learning opportunities such as the Health Scholar program are critical for individuals to identify a truly fulfilling career path, as opposed to one influenced by pop-culture or limited industry knowledge. For individuals who do not have family members, friends, or mentors in the industry, the program provides them with the necessary exposure to make informed choices about their future before they take on educational loans and other career-related commitments. After gaining a firsthand understanding of the day-to-day realities of the roles available in health care, many Health Scholars find their initial assumptions and expectations do not align with the reality,
leading to a shift in their career trajectory.
For example, at St. Mary, 25 percent of Health Scholars adjusted their career goal to a role that better reflected the impact they wanted to make in health care after only three months in the program, and exposure to just one department. After one year, and exposure to over four departments, the number of career goal adjustments increased to 39 percent.