Health care is the number one employment sector in Lawrence County.
About 700 eighth graders from eight school districts learned about the industry at the 20th annual Lawrence County Healthcare Career Fair on Thursday.
Students from Shenango, Neshannock, Wilmington, Union, Laurel, Mohawk, Ellwood City and Riverside school districts attended the event at the Scottish Rite Cathedral.
Lawrence County School-To-Work Inc. executive director Lynda Jaworski-Rapone said the goals of the event were to highlight careers in healthcare, both clinical and non-clinical. , to ensure that students receive a “snapshot” of the various careers they can explore further in high school and learn about the education and skills required to work in the different fields.
“It gives them that information at an early age so they can start thinking,” Jaworski-Rapone said.
The keynote speakers for the event were Joseph Caldwell and Michael Stitt.
Caldwell is an Emergency Medical Technician, Certified Paramedic, and Business Relations and Development Coordinator for STAT MedEvac Ambulance. Stitt is a Master Paramedic for STAT MedEvac.
The students also had the chance to speak with representatives from different medical societies and educational institutions.
These included BC3 @ Lawrence Crossing, the Human Services Center, Lawrence County Career & Technical Center, Lawrence County Department of Public Safety, Lawrence County YMCA, New Castle Fire Department, NovaCare Rehabilitation, Primary Health Network, and UPMC Jameson and UPMC Horizon.
For the LCCTC, this included representatives from the health aide program and the veterinary aide program.
For UPMC Jameson, this included the Human Resources Department, Laboratory Department, Respiratory Therapy Department, UPMC Jameson School of Nursing, and UPMC Jameson School of Radiography.
Professional point of view
Caldwell said that across the healthcare landscape, there are staffing shortages.
Therefore, he said he was delighted to be able to introduce students to the different career options that exist in the field of health.
During their presentation, Stitt said he joined the healthcare field in 1988 as an ambulance driver, after his brother was killed in a car accident.
He noted that he was unaware of the “community” at various medical stations that tried to save his brother’s life.
“I wanted to give back to the community,” Stitt said.
Stitt has worked his way up to become a paramedic, paramedic and now a paramedic since 2001.
Stitt spoke about the roles and responsibilities of a paramedic and the different types of people they encounter, as he feels it is equally important to engage with the public in these times of need and vulnerability.
He said the most interesting person he ever rescued in the field was a First World War pilot, who told him about his time in the war during their helicopter flight to the hospital.
“In healthcare, you meet a lot of interesting people,” Stitt said.
Caldwell said he encourages any students interested in entering the healthcare field to start with training as an EMT or paramedic or volunteer with their local fire department.
He said it could launch you into other medical careers in the future.
“It’s a very rewarding career,” Caldwell said.
Bill Broadwater and Joshua Weisz, who work in the respiratory therapy department at UPMC Jameson, said that while students can learn the necessary instructions and lessons, it takes real-world experience and their own personalities to have the good amount of empathy, compassion and caring for others.
Both credit the department’s teamwork and perseverance with getting through the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example.
A great opportunity
Caldwell, Stitt, Broadwater, Weisz, Nancy Anderson and Bailey Barnett, students at UPMC’s Jameson School of Nursing, and nursing educator Suzanne Zack said the fair was a great opportunity for students to learn with the medical field.
All said they wished there was something like this when they were in school.
Caldwell was a Ford mechanic and Stitt worked in manufacturing as a factory worker before deciding to join the medical field.
Anderson said she was 31 when she decided to become a nurse.
Riverside students Nadia and Macy Paff and Kayla Kriberney all want to join the medical field.
Nadia Paff said she wanted to be a first responder like her father, Macy Paff wanted to work in orthopedics, while Kriberney wanted to be a doctor or surgeon.
The New Castle Area School District was invited, but declined the invitation, not wanting to disrupt students in the classroom, Jaworski-Rapone added.