Summer may be on its way out, but it’s never too early to start planning the next step on your health care career path. There are several ways to get glimpses of the job you’re striving towards, including formal summer medical programs, job shadowing, internships and studying abroad. By starting your research into opportunities specifically offered during the summer now, you’ll be all set to take advantage of one of these programs next year.
Medical programs offer high school students hands-on experience in medicine. Some activities that might be a part of these experiences include simple medical procedures, shadowing doctors, working in hospitals, talking to patients and even observing surgeries. These programs give students a wide range of specialties to consider and provide a realistic look into life as a student, resident and health care professional.
Not all health care professionals are interested in directly treating patients with a hands-on approach. Medical research is extremely important as new procedures, medications and diseases continue to develop. Students participating in a medical research program will be able to work in a lab and help with medical research, assist with interviews as part of clinical research and prepare presentations to explain the work being done. Even if research is not your intended profession, you’ll find the experience beneficial when you fall back on it during lab work and research studies in medical school and during your undergraduate classes.
Science is the foundation of health care, so don’t rule out general science programs next summer. These programs cover a wide variety, but as you know, health care also covers a wide variety of jobs. A lot of pre-medicine and pre-health degrees require extensive science courses and laboratory work, so these types of programs can give you a leg up on your college course load. You’ll also get to experience some research environments.
Where can you find medical programs like the ones that we’ve covered above? ExploreHealthCareers.org hosts a database of enrichment programs, which is a good place to start. Let’s take a look at a few specific programs so that you have a better idea of what you’ll find once you begin your search.
Stanford Medical Youth Science Program
Stanford University has several summer outreach programs, both for undergraduates and high school students. Among those is the Anesthesia Summer Institute program, which stretches for two weeks and is designed for those interested in STEM careers to spend time working with Stanford faculty members. Students work towards solving real healthcare problems.
The three programs designed specifically for high school students include Stanford Explore (a four week lecture series), the Medical Youth Science Program and the Institutes of Medicine Summer Program.
The Medical Youth Science Program is a residential program for low-income and ethnically underrepresented sophomore and junior high school students from Northern California. The Medicine Summer Program is eight-weeks long and prepares students for research positions in the future by pairing them with faculty and students on a research project.
National Student Leadership Conference on Medicine & Health Care
The National Student Leadership Conference provides hands-on education that allows prospective health care students to see the ins and outs of clinical environments, various medical facilities, and participate in simulated activities. Students will be treated like medical students, given information and forced to work together and research to solve problems.
The NSLC is held throughout the summer at 11 locations include American University, Harvard Medical School and the University of Washington. College credit is available for some of these resident programs. Beyond learning about medical careers, students will learn leadership skills that will help them in whatever career they choose. Those topics include conflict resolution, public speaking and ethical decision-making.
University of South Florida
The high school summer program at USF, located in Tampa, Florida, encourages students and their parents to consider a career in health care, particularly among minority students. They focus on recruiting minority students as most parents choose providers that share a racial and ethnic background. Currently, only 12% of medical school graduates are African American, Hispanic or Native American and USF is trying to increase that number, across medicine, nursing, pharmacy and dentistry.
The programs offered at USF focus on information and field trips, camps, guest speakers, mentoring programs and their Recruitment and Educational Assistance for Careers in Health (REACH) Program. Students are able to experience the full spectrum of health care careers, spending time talking to medical students and observing procedures at places like Tampa General Hospital.
Penn State College of Medicine
Penn State College of Medicine offers programs year-round to encourage high school students to pursue a health care career. These programs range from the Capital Area Science & Engineer Fair in March to the Summer Teen Volunteer Program at the Hershey Medical Center. The Surgery Live! program connects high school students to the operating room through videoconferencing and is designed to cultivate and grow interest in the health care field.
Penn State has a program open to anyone not currently in the nursing field (including high school students!) to experience what life as a nurse is really like. The program combines presentations, simulated clinical activities, and a tour of the medical center. The PULSE program is a semester long program that joins medical students and health care students and introduces new topics in labs, presentations and small groups.
As you can see, there’s no reason to put your health care career on hold before graduation or even when school’s out. Start planning early to ensure you can take advantage of the many summer medical programs offered to help prospective students like you get closer to their dream health care career.