The United States is facing a shortage of health care workers in the next few decades, as our population continues to grow and to age. The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a doctor shortage of 46,000 to 90,000 physicians by 2025, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the U.S. will need 526,800 more nurses by 2022. The BLS also projects that health care support occupations will increase 28.1 percent from 2012 to 2022, which represents the fastest growth of any major occupational group. This can include home health aides, medical technicians and medical assistants.
To address this health care shortage and prepare for the future, Mayo Clinic is reaching out to high school students and their teachers and counselors to educate them about the array of health care professions and to help students identify and prepare for career paths that are right for them.
“Our Career Awareness programs aimed at the high school level move from exploration to confirmation,” said Guy Finne, manager of recruitment strategies at Mayo Clinic. “They give students opportunities to confirm that this is what they want to do. We have a system of programs that start at the seventh through ninth grade levels with career exploration for the masses. We get preliminary information to as many students as we can. For example, we have a classroom speaker program to send our experts out to partnering schools. As we work with them, some of them raise their hands (as being) interested in careers.”
Finne said the efforts are critical for Mayo Clinic long-term.
“Mayo Clinic’s success is directly connected to the skill, knowledge, passion and efforts of our workforce,” Finne said. “We want to do our part in making sure our local and regional talent is well informed of the career opportunities in health care in order to ensure that our future applicant pools are diverse, talented and see Mayo Clinic as an employer of choice.”
According to the College Choice Report by ACT, which administers the ACT college readiness exam, 24 percent of 2014 high school graduates who were surveyed planned to major in the area of health sciences and technologies (e.g., physicians, nurses, physician assistants, dentists, EMTs and physical and mental therapists). Only 4 percent planned to major in health administration and assisting (e.g., health services administration and medical and dental assistants).
By their second years of college, however, high school students who planned a career in health care administration/assisting were among the most likely to switch majors. Only 7 percent of students who had planned to pursue these fields actually declared a major consistent with their stated plans. But many of the students stayed in the health care arena, with 43 percent intending to major in health care administration/assisting but majoring in health sciences/technologies instead. On the flip side, only 16 percent of those declaring a major in health care administration/assisting had planned to do so, while 53 percent had originally planned to major in health sciences/technologies.
“Research shows that counseling activities in high school designed to affect career choice, exploration and planning can be effective. In particular, effective interventions include things such as written exercises allowing for the comparison of occupational information and for setting goals and plans. There are tools out there, such as ACT Profile, that students can access without cost which may provide them personalized data and valuable information that will really help match them to the career that makes the most sense,” said Wayne Camara, senior vice president of research at ACT.
Mayo Clinic also has partnered with Rochester Public Schools and Rochester Community and Technical College to open and provide ongoing support for the Health Science Careers Center.
“All enrolled students start with the Introduction to Health Sciences and then have the chance to specialize in the second semester in one of four areas: nursing assistant, pharmacy technician, therapeutic medicine or biomedical science,” Finne explained. “We know that those students who’ve participated were prepared for college because of the experiences they’ve had with our programs. A number who take part in the Health Science Career Center program leave high school having their certified nursing assistant credentials, and some put themselves through college that way. Many end up at Mayo.”
Mayo Clinic programs for high schoolers
Mayo Clinic has developed or partnered with several programs to educate students about the many different careers available in health care. These programs include:
Exploring-Learning for Life— a partnership with the Boy Scouts of America, the program provides a learning experience for high schoolers revolving around the goals of career exploration, life skill development, service learning experiences, character education and leadership opportunities.
Career Observation Program—intended to help confirm interest in health care career paths. Students receive information for career decision-making and insight into Mayo Clinic careers and Mayo Clinic as a potential employer.
High School Mentorship—brings students to Mayo Clinic to work with a mentor on an identified, specific project for a minimum of 60 hours. The program is intended for high academic performers to introduce them to career opportunities in a wide variety of biomedical science fields.
Health Occupation Students of America—a national career and technical student organization endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education. Nationally, there are more than 66,000 members. Mayo Clinic works with local chapters and supports them with classroom resources, on-campus tours and more.
Mayo Clinic Health Care Career Festival— offers high school students in Southeastern Minnesota the opportunity each October to explore a wide range of exciting career opportunities in a festive, engaging atmosphere. More than 900 students from 45 area schools (who apply to attend) participate each year.
Youth Apprenticeship—a paid experience in which a student works at Mayo Clinic for 400 hours in the summer between his or her high school junior and senior years and 400 hours during the student’s senior year. The opportunity is open to students enrolled in the Health Science Careers Center in Rochester, Minn.
Teacher Externship—a continuing education graduate credit course for five secondary career educators, health occupations educators and counselors for 40 hours over the summer. They work as a cohort, and the experience is hands-on. In the health care industry, Mayo Clinic realizes many students who express interest in health care careers are poorly informed about the variety of opportunities available. This program helps educators learn more so they can guide students.