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Connecting Kids to Careers

Janelle Harris, CNII, Jaime Thomas, CN IV, Maria Nicolas, CNII, Sitha Dy, CNS and Jocelyn Blaisdell, NM
Two yearsago, a group of HUP nurses on Ravdin 9, a surgical unit, joined the hospital-wideCommunity Outreach Committee. The committee would help the Hospital renew itsprestigious nursing Magnet certification, but their work wouldgo far beyond that.

And so JanelleHarris, BSN, RN, CMSRN, started attending monthly meetingswith Pamela Mack Brooks, MSN, CRNP, to learn about different opportunities to giveback to the community.

In August2011, Harris and other nurses began their efforts by staffing an informationtable at a health fair hosted by Harris’ childhood church. The group educatedthe public on how a testicular self exam is conducted, how to check breasts forlumps to monitor for breast cancer, and answered otherbasic medical questions. The unit pharmacist joined them at the event to offer drugdescriptions, promote safe use of medications, and more.

Their next project was a health fair at Paul Robeson High School for HumanServices (PRHS). As Ear, Nose, and Throat nurses who help patients withconditions such as head and neck cancer, they decided to impart their knowledgeabout the effects of smoking and methods of smoking prevention.

The groupbrought their tracheotomy dummy, which is outfitted with a feeding tube, toexplain the dangerous health risks from smoking.    

When wefirst did a health fair, kids asked, “Oh, you’re a nurse?,” “How’d you get tobe a nurse?,” “Tell us what we have to do to be nurses,” said Harris. “We got alot more of those questions than ones about smoking.”

Based on thesignificant feedback for career advice and assistance from a Penn MedicineCAREs grant, the group’s next project will be a health career fair at PRHS.With help from the grant, the team aims to reach at least 100 studentswho have shown an interest in working in health care.

Working in Paul Robeson HS, Megan Kelly, CRNP, teaches the students health-related technology, using a curriculum based on Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)skills. Harris reached out to Kelly asking if she wanted to team up and Kellyagreed. The career fair will take place in May 2013.

 “We’re pulling in all aspects of nursing,nurse practitioners, social work nursing, we’re pulling in pharmacy, physicaltherapy, speech therapy, and more,” said Harris. “Not everyone wants to go intonursing and we understand that.”

The groupknows they can make a difference for some of these kids, as it worked for themyears ago.

“My parentscame to America in 1982 because of the war,” said Sitha Dy, MSN, RN. “My brothers and I are the first generation herein the United States. Going through high school, we didn’t have much familyaround us. My parents were blue collar workers. In high school, we had a careerfair and that’s how I learned about health care and how to become a nurse.”

Others inthe group agreed about the great influence a health career fair can have forthese young students.

“I rememberin high school not knowing what I wanted to do and my friend’s mom was anurse,” said Jaime Thomas, BSN, RN, GSPP. “I shadowed her and saw what shedid and that’s why I went into nursing. Maybe it will be meeting one of us andlearning about what nurses do that will make the difference.”


About Penn Medicine CAREs

Continuing its commitment to underservedcommunities, Penn Medicine established the CAREs Foundation Grant Program inJanuary 2012 to support and recognize faculty, student, and/or staff efforts toimprove the health of the community and increase volunteerism incommunity-based programs. These programs have addressed health disparities,provided care to seniors, administered free medical care to homeless inPhiladelphia, helped fund medical care for uninsured and underinsured, andmore.

Each quarter, the Foundation awards grants ofup to $2000 per project to community and hospital-based programs on behalf ofthe employee(s) or Perelman School of Medicine student(s) who volunteer theirtime to support the program. The funding is eligible for expenses related toinitiatives in community health improvement services, health professionseducation, subsidized health services, cash and in-kind contributions, orcommunity building activities.

For more information and apply, please visit and read about the program at the PennMedicine News blog.


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