How to Prepare for Your Healthcare Education
High school is a time where learners explore many possible career paths, including the many different careers in healthcare. For those who aspire to someday enter a healthcare career, preparing for their healthcare education should begin during these teenage years. Deciphering how to prepare for your healthcare education involves becoming aware of prospective responsibilities, understanding academic requirements and gaining an advantage through first-hand experience.
Research Careers in Healthcare
Across the healthcare industry, there is a wide range of career opportunities. However, not all careers involve the same elements of patient care. For example, Medical Transcriptionists spend the majority of their time typing away on a computer, whereas Physical Therapists will spend the majority of their time working with patients to improve their mobility and physical wellness.
To determine which healthcare career is the best fit for a specific individual, the learner should ask themselves a series of questions, such as, “Do I want to work hands-on with patients? What is my ideal workplace environment? Do I enjoy problem solving? What are my salary requirements?”
Based on a learner’s responses and personality traits, they can begin to research which careers in healthcare fit their needs. In doing so, reading about each career will offer insight and help the learner narrow in on what they hope to achieve from their education. Even if they are unable to confidently select a single career in healthcare that they aspire to someday enter, narrowing down the many choices to a particular field will help them identify which courses they should be taking while they are still in high school, which colleges or universities they should apply to and which programs seem like the best fit for them.
Enroll in Healthcare-related Courses
While still in high school, preparing for a healthcare education means taking courses related to the subject matter. Courses such as biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology and allied health help establish an educational foundation on which college-level courses can later expand on.
“[Dietician-related] courses include instruction on food service, biochemistry, nutritional biochemistry, medical nutrition therapy, community nutrition, etc. I think the science is much more challenging than many people may think, but the curriculum is very chemistry and biology intensive,” Ana Reisdorf, RD, a Dietitian practicing in Tennessee, explained.
In addition to teaching learners some of the basic principles on which careers in healthcare rely upon, high school learners can also use these experiences to determine if a healthcare career is the right fit for them. Researching careers in healthcare is just one way to understand what is involved in each profession, but actually studying the material provides learners a more realistic picture of what a medical career is actually like, and what a clinical role involves.
“I am not the best test taker and so I learned to study thoroughly to ensure I didn’t just pass [exams] but I understood the content,” Monique Beeko, Physical Therapist Assistant, said
Taking healthcare-related courses in high school further helps learners to identify ways in which they can most effectively study the material, and to identify areas which they deem more challenging than others. The class material will also assist with the building of time management skills and the ability to choose proper problem-solving methodologies.
Learning these notions before entering a college-level curriculum is the best way to set oneself up for success in their healthcare education, and ultimately in their career. Without this preparation, learners will find themselves having to put in a lot of extra work to catch up with some of their peers, and to grasp the subject matter at a collegiate rate.
Obtain College Credit
After taking a number of healthcare-related courses in high school, some learners may become eligible to take additional courses and receive college credit. Not only will this help to determine if a learner truly wants to enter a career in healthcare, this can help set them up for success in college — and potentially save them money down the road.
Another benefit of taking healthcare courses for college credit during high school is that learners begin to understand what to expect during their semesters in college. Often, learners are warned that college-level courses are much more difficult than those they take during high school. College courses are known to come with a much heavier workload as well. One theory is that for every one hour of college class time, learners should be spending roughly two to three hours outside of class studying.
While just as demanding as actual college classes, high school courses that offer prospective college credit (often known as advanced placement or “AP” courses) can enable some learners to enter college in a more tenured position. For example, if a learner has enough college credit before entering their selected school, they could begin their college career in the position of a college sophomore, rather than as a freshman. They may be able to place out of entry level courses as well, saving them more time and money.
Volunteer in the Community Now
Another way learners can prepare for their healthcare education during high school is by getting out in the field and helping at healthcare facilities or wellness centers. From extracurricular activities sponsored by high schools directly, to after-school programs which rely upon the volunteerism of teenagers, there are numerous opportunities to get a taste of real-world healthcare experience.
Organizations known to solicit the help of high school learners include the YMCA, the Red Cross, senior care facilities and churches. Some hospitals or Physician’s offices may also have a need for high school learners to perform clerical duties, or to provide basic patient necessities, such as meals.
Having experiences like these under one’s belt can help them to stand out from their peers on their college applications. They can also demonstrate that the learner has taken the time to ensure that a career in healthcare is the path they absolutely want to take.
Equally as important, taking on volunteerism roles or paid opportunities while in high school can help learners to network with those already working in the healthcare field. Then, when they go on to graduate high school, they have a network they can call upon to potentially help them find employment. Networking can prove beneficial to learners as a means of securing advisors as well. If they have a question in college related to the field, someone they may have worked with during this time could potentially answer the question and provide additional insight.
In general, high school is not a time to simply wait around for college to start to begin the path toward a career in healthcare. Rather, high school learners should take initiative early and begin preparing for their collegiate courses and ultimately a rewarding career in healthcare.