School districts across the U.S. are embracing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning by integrating concepts into the curriculum and providing hands-on experiences.
It’s not surprising, as opportunities in STEM careers have grown. In fact, a 2018 Pew Research Center study, “Diversity in the STEM workforce varies widely across jobs,” states that since 1990, STEM employment has grown 79 percent (9.7 million to 17.3 million).”
The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey reports that this workforce “includes 74 occupations, including computer and mathematical occupations, engineers and architects, physical scientists, life scientists, and health-related jobs such as healthcare practitioners and technicians (but not health care support workers such as nursing aides and medical assistants). Workers have associate degrees and other credentials as well as those with bachelor’s and advanced degrees.”
Furthermore, “about half of STEM workers (52 percent, or 9 million) are employed as health care practitioners and technicians, a group that includes nurses, physicians and surgeons, as well as medical and health services managers,” according to the study.
With so many health-related opportunities and an often-touted shortage of health professionals, some schools in the region are partnering with health facilities to give their students an inside view of the industry.
“STEM and careers in the medical field are extremely connected,” says Erin Hoffert, Health Sciences Honors Program (HSHP) coordinator at Saint Joseph Academy in Cleveland. “Often, when working in the medical field, it takes a wide variety of healthcare professionals to solve a problem and provide the best possible patient care. Saint Joseph Academy’s HSHP and Engineering & Design Honors Program (EDHP) work collaboratively to provide the best STEM experiences for our students. For example, EDHP and HSHP students have taken trips to the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center together, where both groups of students were in a medical setting learning from doctors and were also exposed to biomedical engineering through hands-on learning of prosthetic limbs.”
These experiences with medical staff provide students with knowledge not just of the tools used, but of the working environment.
“Students in both programs participate in service opportunities related to their career interests,” Hoffert says. “Therefore, they are not just clinically trained but they gain empathy and compassion, which are important skills for healthcare careers.”
Beachwood City Schools partnered with University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center for its Beachwood Medical Academy. The students enrolled in the program attend seminars from healthcare professionals.
Beachwood Medical Academy started about five years ago and offers a variety of coursework, designed for students who want to do pre-med in college, says Linda LoGalbo, director of curriculum and instruction at Beachwood City Schools.
She says the seminars, run by physicians, give a picture of what their jobs look like.
“It’s important for students to have early exposure to what’s out there,” she says. “It provides our students with ideas on how the hospital works.”
Ken Veon, Beachwood City Schools assistant superintendent, says it’s not just about the science, but also connects to the real world of the hospital and its patients.
The medical field is open to many disciplines and it doesn’t always start with a pre-med program. It’s important that students, such as those in the Beachwood Schools engineering program, are exposed to a variety of careers.
Veon says Dr. Majid Rashidi, from Cleveland State University, works with Beachwood engineering students and is a huge part of the success of the program.
“We aim to give the student the foundation of science,” he says. “As we work with Dr. Rashidi, (in his demonstrations and giving context to the technologies), he is giving them a historical connection and what the future might hold. It’s really important the students understand it better so they can dream a little bigger. They could create something that could improve people’s lives.”