Regret is something that everyone encounters at some point in their life. Whether we regret wrong decisions that led to wasted time or failing to try something new that may have given us a meaningful experience, we can use regret as a vehicle that ultimately transports us to our destiny by viewing our regrets as lessons that prepare us to use wisdom when making future decisions. For me, a major regret was deciding not to take advantage of the tech program offered by my high school when I was a senior. I was advised by my guidance counselor to take Advanced Placement Calculus and Biology since I was considering applying to a pre-med program and according to her, “The tech program offers EMT and Certified Nursing Assistant courses. Nursing isn’t going to help you as a doctor”. Looking back, this statement is synonymous with saying “learning how to read isn’t necessary to become a writer”, but I digress. From this experience, or lack thereof, I learned that ultimately we are responsible for ourselves and advice does not always have to be taken as others do not always know or care what is best for us. Here is why I wish I was aware of this as a high school senior and took advantage of the tech program:
- Its free- most public high schools, at least in New York State offer classes at a local technical school free of cost. Taking these classes as an adult is usually a few thousand dollars in addition to the fees required for state licensure exams and uniforms.
- Tech expands your job options- Although you are ultimately pursuing a career as a physician or healthcare professional, earning a certification in order to work as a nursing assistant, emergency medical technician, medical assistant, licensed practical nurse, dental hygienist, Hemodialysis technician, EKG technician, or phlebotomist will allow you to seek employment in healthcare before even starting your undergraduate course of study, allowing you to earn a decent salary compared to most jobs available to high school students or individuals lacking a college degree or experience. As a “tech student” you have the option of working in diverse settings such as hospitals, private practices, blood banks, and nursing homes, depending on your interests. Certification in entry level health care fields allow young adults to be more financially independent because in addition to numerous employment options many facilities even pay a percentage of your tuition after a year or two of employment, alleviating the burden of tuition costs.
- Preparation and Experience- Contrary to popular belief, undergraduate coursework does not adequately prepare you for medical school or allied health professions. All coursework for students enrolled in pre-med programs requires either retaining information or applying information that can be used for problem solving. However, earning straight A’s in biology and chemistry classes do not allow you to interact with patients on a daily basis, solve practical problems, or communicate effectively with other members of the healthcare team. What is the sense of learning synthesis reactions in Organic Chemistry if you can’t even take an accurate blood pressure reading?
No amount of studying could ever replace experience, which is why a road test is required to obtain a driver’s license. It is only through gaining tangible direct patient care experience that an aspiring healthcare provider can prepare themselves for the challenges and requirements that come with careers in healthcare. Without experience, one is unable to make an honest decision about whether or not they should ultimately pursue a career in healthcare or pursue something else that they are more suitable for. In addition, the vast majority of medical schools and physician assistant programs require a large number of direct patient care hours, in order to determine how committed an applicant is to their career of interest. Employment at a healthcare facility prior to beginning an undergraduate education allows a student to not only acquire direct patient care hours and meaningful experience, but allows the student to network with physicians, nurses, and physician assistants who will be willing and able to write excellent letters of recommendation.
Even if you already started college and are currently enrolled as a pre-med or pre-allied health student, medical assistant, nursing assistant, and Emergency Medical Technician courses are plentiful and affordable. There are some free programs such as the Long Island Educational Opportunity Center (LIEOC) that offer a variety of certification courses for individuals who have less than thirty college credits and can provide proof that they are economically disadvantaged. If you really desire to pursue a career that involves interacting with patients on a daily basis, why not start now?