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IU Health and IPS partnership secures jobs in healthcare

On Tuesday morning, Chandler Harris and Aileen Reyes strolled through the resonant hallways of IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Wearing IU Health face masks and jackets, the two high school students were starting their day shadowing medical professionals in what could be the early stages of their 16-year-old careers.

The two are part of a year-old program that lets high school students explore the healthcare field and even promises a job offer upon graduation. The program will secure them offers through IU Health as a medical assistant or patient care technician in a state where some hospitals are understaffed.

The partnership between IU Health and Indianapolis Public Schools serves 23 students at Crispus Attucks High School.

“Crispus Attucks is right in the backyard,” program manager Andrea Russell said, referring to the school’s proximity to the hospitals involved in the program. “So it was definitely a partnership that made sense.”

Russell said the program targets students from a variety of backgrounds interested in working in health care. Russell said it’s important to have team members that patients can relate to and who represent a diverse population.

During the summer, students alternate between Methodist, Riley, and University hospitals as well as IUPUI research buildings. They apply in first year. The program will add 45 more students in the fall and hopes to expand even more in future years.

The program covers a range of jobs in healthcare, from cardiology to travel nursing, as well as the business side of the medical field. While many students start with a specific interest, Russell said students are often surprised when they find a field even more appealing.

She recalls a student who observed a neuroscience research team and found the work “felt like home.”

“Students begin to intentionally develop character,” Russell said of high school students.

Russell described the program as hands-on with on-the-job learning. Although students do not work directly with patients, they work with cadavers, use medical equipment, and observe medical appointments and procedures.

Since the program covers so many topics, Harris said she learns a new thing every day.

“Being here is like a breath of fresh air,” she said, looking quite different from her previous work in the restaurant business.

Harris and Aileen Reyes are rising juniors at Crispus Attucks. As they dabbled in different facets of the healthcare industry, they both say they could focus on their passions, especially working in hospitals this summer.

Even with the guarantee of a job, many students will pursue higher education after graduation. Program officials hope the transition to college will be smoother for these students after they have already learned in a hospital setting. Many of them will have the chance to work part-time during their studies if they are interested.

Harris said she already knew she wanted to go to college, but the program helped her focus.

“Normally people don’t know what they want to be when they’re in high school,” Harris said.

Now, Harris said, she’s excited to continue studying forensics in hopes of starting a career as a forensic nurse.

Helen Rummel is a summer reporting intern covering education in the Indianapolis area. Contact Helen at hrummel@chalkbeat.org.

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