HealthCare 360 allows Portage students to explore careers in health with hands-on demos

HealthCare 360 allows Portage students to explore careers in health with hands-on demos

After a year where healthcare workers were in the spotlight more than ever, Portage High School students explored careers in the field during Portage Economic Develop Corporation’s (EDC) HealthCare 360 event.

Organized in partnership with Northwest Health, NorthShore Health, Ivy Tech Community College, Community Healthcare System’s St. Mary Medical Center, and Portage Township Schools, HealthCare 360 offers students a chance to meet with healthcare professionals in a wide variety of fields and get hands-on experience with some of their daily activities. Nurses, physical therapists, emergency medical services (EMS), dental workers, lab technicians, and more all offered their expertise and experience.

Portage EDC Healthcare 360 Event 2021

Portage EDC Healthcare 360 Event 2021 30 Photos
Portage EDC Healthcare 360 Event 2021Portage EDC Healthcare 360 Event 2021Portage EDC Healthcare 360 Event 2021Portage EDC Healthcare 360 Event 2021

“This is about enabling these students to learn and ask questions,” said Amy Parker, Executive Director of Portage EDC. “These are kids who have some kind of interest in these careers, and it’s showing them what they need to do today to prepare for tomorrow. I’m really excited, this is such a great opportunity.”

In previous years, students participating in HealthCare 360 visited the participating hospitals. Due to COVID-19 safety precautions and a smaller turnout due to virtual learning, this year’s event was hosted in Portage High School’s fieldhouse. Over 20 students took part, turning an e-learning day, where they normally would only need to do any leftover homework, into a day-long learning experience.

“It’s a real credit to these students that they’re here, engaged, and excited to be learning,” said Dr. Michael Stephens, Associate Superintendent of Portage Township Schools. “They realize at an early age what’s interesting to them. We want to show our students that there are opportunities to stay here in Portage to have a wonderful life and a great career with all these opportunities here in our backyard.”

The different professionals all praised the students for their challenging questions and eager engagement with the different activity stations that let them try things such as making molds of teeth, doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and other tasks beyond the scope of the usual nursing or doctor roles.

“I’m super impressed by these kids because they’re remaining engaged and are asking all the right questions,” said Sandy Oliver, Physician Recruiter at Northwest Health. “What you see on TV is all doctors and nurses, and there are so many other ways of getting involved in healthcare without the usual two to four-year programs and medical school. These are careers that these kids can get into locally, quickly, and at low cost.”

Students often get their career ideas and information through the media, word-of-mouth, or quick internet searches; the healthcare professionals were excited to circumvent that and help the students get a direct connection to the industry with hands-on experience.

“When I was in high school we didn’t have opportunities like this,” said Shannon Hough, Nurse and Health & Wellness Coordinator for St. Mary Medical Center. “I think kids often make decisions based on what their friends or family say and don’t really get to experience the different careers in healthcare that they might not know of, like physical therapy. I chose nursing after high school because I knew nurses, but maybe I’d have chosen a different path if there’d been something like this.”

To learn more about opportunities for students through Portage Economic Development Corporation, visit their website at