WINCHESTER — There are many jobs available in a hospital, and the Health Care and Hospitality Career Advancement Program (HHCAP) through Valley Health helps to show high school students what some of those options are.
“You have to work as a team or it won’t work at all,” said Caitlyn Paxton, 17, who participated in the program this summer, about what she learned from the program.
Rising juniors, seniors and recent high school graduates are all invited to apply for the program, which is a paid seven-week internship.
The 12 students who were accepted into the Winchester program worked in environmental services, food services, cleaning rooms and interacting with patients, where they helped to prepare food for the hospital cafeteria. The program focuses on sanitation, infection control, customer service, dietary needs, safe food practice and interacting with patients.
According to Shannon Loy, program coordinator in environmental services, a big part of the program is getting rid of stereotypes many people have about these kinds of jobs, and showing the students how crucial they are to the functioning of the hospital.
The program is offered at each of the Valley Health hospitals, and a total of 34 interns participated. The last day of the program was Friday, and that evening a graduation ceremony was held for all the interns at Winchester Medical Center.
“We reach out to all the local high schools to get an idea of what students would be interested,” Loy said. “We try to target students who have an interest in health sciences, students who may not be headed to college after graduation, and those who may have an interest in college, but don’t think they can afford it.”
Valley Health offers tuition reimbursement for students who work at the hospital while earning a degree related to health.
“We try to show students that there are many jobs available in the hospital that don’t require as much training as becoming a doctor or a nurse,” Loy said. “We want them to know their options are wider than working at Walmart or McDonald’s after high school.”
Caitlyn applied for HHCAP because her mother was a nurse and always wanted her to enter the medical field as well.
Before entering the program, she thought health care wasn’t something that interested her, but now she is thinking about going to school to become an RN.
Interns spent three weeks working in environmental services, and three weeks working in food services during the program. They also did a community project, volunteering at the Habitat for Humanity house in Winchester, and completed a team-building exercise to build their communication skills and learn how to work as a team.
Gabrielle Hair, 19, entered the program because she was also thinking about a nursing career nursing. After completing the program, she knows she wants to be a nurse in the critical care unit or in labor and delivery.
“I think it’s really cool to be able to interact and talk with different patients,” Hair said. “Everyone is so different, and they all have different thoughts and ideas, so it’s cool to get to talk to all of them.”
Hair said she is a quiet person, so at first she was nervous she wouldn’t know how to interact with patients, but she said they were all very friendly and easy to talk to, so she quickly came out of her shell.
Even though the program is over, Hair would still like to work in the hospital. She has applied for a part-time job in food services, where she hopes to work as she finishes high school at James Wood.
According to Loy, more than half of the interns who participate in HHCAP apply for some type of job in the hospital once it is over.
This is the third year the HHCAP internship program has been held.