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Inside The Medical Pathways Program: Fostering the Future of Healthcare

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At Gunnison Valley Health, we believe in the power of education to transform lives and uplift rural communities – our Medical Pathways Program is an example of that belief in action. It has been five years since the inception of the program and in that time, it has grown to include more specialties, grades, and opportunities for students to gain firsthand experience and knowledge from professionals. This program is designed to inspire and lay out a clear path to planning and success for high school students interested in healthcare careers.

Almost every Wednesday night from January to April, Gunnison and Crested Butte high school students in grades 9-12, take part in hands-on sessions that cover a broad range of topics. The 2024 program featured: radiology; nursing in the medical/surgical unit, the Family Birth Center and the operating room; cardiopulmonary and respiratory therapy; laboratory services; oncology; emergency medical services; behavioral health; medical coding; rehabilitation and athletic medicine; primary care; supply chain management; home medical services; hospice care; senior services and long-term care; infection prevention and the emergency department; environmental services; and a panel discussion with physicians and providers. Our goal is to showcase the diversity of professional positions within the health system and highlight how each is interconnected and crucial to patient care. A career in healthcare is more than what most people think.

The program is a volunteer, extra activity for the students, but is truly a valuable tool to invest in their future, consider their career options and form valuable connections with professionals. For the past two years, most students who participated in the Medical Pathways Programs were first- and second-year students. These exceptional young people freely gave their time, planning around work, sports, clubs, and other activities to attend the program and engage wholeheartedly with the learning.

Each module of the Medical Pathways Program is led by personnel from Gunnison Valley Health who design and lead the sessions. The program is a success because of their knowledge, commitment and dedication. These personnel understand the importance of supporting the next generation of healthcare professionals and guide the students through what it looks like to do what they do, every day. They can answer questions and provide a realistic picture of career options and the multitude of pathways to enter the field. Each year the program closes with a celebratory graduation dinner with students, their families and Gunnison Valley Health personnel.

We have been fortunate enough over the years to see Medical Pathways Program participants go on to shadow in our departments, take our CNA licensing course, and begin working for Gunnison Valley Health. While this is not the only reason we host the program each year, we are thrilled to have a pathway to home grow talent and support members of our community to begin their healthcare careers. As we reflect on the success of the Medical Pathways Program and the extraordinary young people who have participated, we are filled with optimism for the future of rural healthcare.