In the spirit of paying it forward, some of this year’s HealthCorps Navigators volunteered to meet with students participating in the MGH Youth Scholars program and share insights about their work in health care. The HealthCorps Navigators are part of the larger AmeriCorps Program and have committed to a year of service to aid in the development and implementation of programs in area community health centers with the help of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers.
Earlier this year, the HealthCorps Navigators connected with two Fellows from the Kraft Center for Community Health who spoke with them about their own professional development. “Our meeting with the Kraft Fellows was so informative and helpful. When the opportunity arose to connect with the scholars, I immediately volunteered with the hopes that I might be able to answer some of their questions too. I think it’s always helpful to hear from someone directly about their experiences,” said Alexandra Douglas, a HealthCorps Navigator at the Dorchester House.
The HealthCorps Navigators spoke with the scholars about the year of service that they’re currently wrapping up in area community health centers and their college experiences. Each Navigator was placed in a different location and had with varying assignments, so students got to hear about the variety of roles that exist in health center operations. The Navigators reminded students that a career in health care includes many roles and opportunities beyond being a doctor or a nurse. There are many important ways people contribute to the best delivery of care. “When I started my work as a Navigator, I was sure I wanted to pursue public health. Now that I’ve worked in a health center, I’m reconsidering how I want to contribute to the health care field because there are so many ways to do so. I now plan to pursue a degree in nursing,” said Katharine Torres, a Navigator at the Union Square Health Center in Somerville.
The Navigators also expanded the conversation with students and spoke candidly about their college experiences. The Scholars are high school students interested in science and health care careers and are currently exploring their options for higher education. The Navigators are from a variety of backgrounds and all attended different universities, so the students were also given the opportunity to ask questions about their college experiences. “It’s great for the students to hear directly from recent college grads that they can relate to as they get ready for their own college experiences,” said Amanda Walsh, Program and Curriculum Manager at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Community Health Improvement and leader of the 9th grade cohort.
The need for a strong health care workforce only continues to grow, which is why it’s helpful to facilitate these kinds of conversations about health care careers among young people. By 2018, total employment in health care is projected to be 19.8 million. Like the Kraft Fellows, the HealthCorps Navigators’ insights made the possibility of a career in health care come alive for the MGH Youth Scholars. This kind of dialogue also encourages students to engage in ongoing relationships that have the potential to shape and mold their professional futures.