Getting a Head Start on Health Care

  • Article by: NANCY CROTTI , Star Tribune Sales and Marketing
  • Updated: December 8, 2010 - 4:07 PM

If you already know that health care is for you, there's no need to wait for college to start preparing. Officials of two Twin Cities colleges offer tips on how to get ahead even before high school graduation.

High school students who want a career in health care can get a jumpstart in several ways. Janis Hollenbeck, interim dean of nursing and allied health at Minneapolis Community & Technical College (minneapolis.edu), recommends taking introductory and intermediate algebra plus a full year of general biology and chemistry in high school.

High school students may also take Advanced Placement and Post-Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO) classes to earn college credit. PSEO is available at all Minnesota public colleges and universities and at many private colleges. For more information on PSEO, visit mnscu.edu.

Check out the schools

Hollenbeck recommends that students who are interested in attending a college in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system get a copy of the system's Go Places catalog, which lists areas of study by college as well as region. Once they've narrowed down their choices, students should visit each college's website to learn the admission requirements for each major. "They will differ from place to place," Hollenbeck says.

Students should also network with family members and acquaintances who work in health care to learn more about their careers, and consider working or volunteering in a health care facility, according to Vicki Schug, program director for the St. Catherine University baccalaureate nursing program (stkate.edu). High school students may take a nursing assistant course at a community college or through the American Red Cross (redcrosstc.org) to help secure employment in a nursing home, assisted-living facility or community agency. Working or volunteering in these settings will also expose students to other health care jobs.

"That all helps to more fully inform students just what nursing and other professional roles entail," Schug says.

What are you good at?

Students should consider not only their interests but their skills, according to Hollenbeck. "Every different area has its focus and you have to know that's something that you're interested in and that you have the general ability to do," she said. "You want to make sure you look into a profession that you think your skills are well-aligned with."

Enhancing communication skills and knowing how to prioritize and manage time will help, as will a willingness to explore a variety of health care careers and to consider one's career in the short and long terms, according to Schug.

"Those are all really important skills to develop and enhance throughout one's high school career as a student gets ready to embark upon the next step in the academic journey," Schug said. "The more that can be done in planning and preparation, the better."

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