Students Interested in Healthcare Find their Passion in GO CAPS

Sep 28, 2016

GO CAPS Students Practice Networking Skills
Credit Michele Skalicky / KSMU

A program offered to area juniors and seniors lets them try out a career before they leave high school. KSMU's Michele Skalicky has more.

High school students in the Ozarks are getting a firsthand look at what it’s like to work in the field of healthcare through the GO CAPS program. 

They’re in the Medicine and Health Care Strand of GO CAPS, a program offered by the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, which lets them test drive a career.

There are 79 students involved in that strand this year.  Cox site instructor, Ryan Lacson, said GO CAPS differs from other career-focused programs they offer in that it emphasizes career immersion.

"In Medical Explorers they may go shadow a cardiologist, but that's it.  With GO CAPS, they might identify a problem that cardiologists, cardiac nurses, whomever in that industry or in that specialty, what's a problem they deal with?  And then the students will actually try to develop a solution to it," he said.

Mercy site instructor, Mary Edgerton, said GO CAPS lets teens test drive a career by exposing them to a variety of experiences.

"And then, based on that experience, they can be a little better at choosing the degree path that they're going to need to follow, maybe even a better, more efficient path to follow in that respect when it comes to their classes that they take and the money they spend and even the university choices that they make," she said.

That can help reduce the amount of money the students will owe when they graduate from college or finish whatever training their future career requires. 

Jordan Nelson, Mercy’s continuing medical education coordinator, said GO CAPS is largely student-driven.

"Really, anything the kids think of, we try to give them an opportunity to do it, so if they come up with a student they want to do, we try to find them an avenue to get that done," she said.

Not every day involves learning about different career options.  On a recent morning, students were learning how to network by practicing talking one-on-one with each other.  Another session taught them how to address an envelope to send a thank you note after an interview—things students these days might not know how to do but that will serve them well as they pursue a career in healthcare or other fields.

Lacson said GO CAPS is a chance for students to learn 21st Century skills.

"We want them to be thinking creatively and critically but not just so narrow minded that they're thinking within the content itself.  We want them to be able to apply it to the business world.  We want them to be able to present an idea to a boss, to a client and to whomever.  We want them to make it through the interview," he said.

Edgerton hopes the teens in the Medicine and Health Care strand will become passionate about whatever area of healthcare they’re interested in. That, she said, will benefit patients in the long-term.

"As an employer's side of that, I now have a well-trained individual who has a passion, and when you have those two things together you've got quality healthcare, I believe," she said.

She’s already seen what a difference the program has made for some of the juniors and seniors.  Even in the first weeks this fall, she’s seen a change in body language, their involvement and their confidence to share opinions and make decisions.

The program is only as successful as the healthcare professionals who step up to get involved in it, and that hasn’t been a problem, according to Jim Anderson.  The board president of GO CAPS and vice-president of marketing and public affairs for CoxHealth said many of their employees have offered to help.  The hospital has an internal steering committee for GO CAPS from several areas of the healthcare system.  Members of the staff also serve on the advisory committee for the Medicine and Healthcare strand.

And Mercy employees have been just as eager to help out.  There are also employees from other organizations giving their time and talent to GO CAPS, including Missouri State University, Drury University, Ozarks Technical Community College, Citizens Memorial Hospital, Jordan Valley Health Center and the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

Anderson, former president of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, is in a perfect position to see how the program can impact workforce development in the area.  He said successful communities in the future will be those that have figured out the talent game.

"How to retain and attract quality workforce talent, and GO CAPS is sort of the poster child.  It's sort of the epitome of that," he said.

According to Anderson, the need for healthcare workers in southwest Missouri is huge and will continue to be.  There’s a nationwide nursing shortage, he said, and it’s impacting the Ozarks.

"Between Mercy and CoxHealth, there's 600 nursing positions open, and as a result there's an acute need for nurses.  But it's not just nurses, it's other healthcare professionals.  It's physicians.  There's a shortage of all healthcare professionals," he said.

He’s hopeful the students who take part in GO CAPS will stay local or will return to the area to work after they finish their post-high school studies.

The program is growing—Anderson said their biggest challenge in the future will be managing “quality growth” as the demand for GO CAPS increases. 

He said it’s very much exceeded his expectations just in its second year.