Innovative Program Connects Students' Aspirations with Health Care Careers

June 13, 2024


The health care industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States, driven by an aging population and advancements in medical technology. However, there remains a significant gap between the demand for skilled health care professionals and the supply, especially in communities with limited access to education.  

To address this issue and foster the next generation of health care professionals, BayCare has partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast (BGCS) since January 2023 to create a student apprenticeship program. This collaboration provides high school students with an invaluable opportunity to learn about the health care industry, gain hands-on experience and build a solid foundation for their future careers.  

The students, who attend different high schools in the Tampa Bay area and come from diverse backgrounds, unite with a common goal of learning about health care. BGCS interviews and hires the candidates, while BayCare provides a pathway to explore and enter health care professions. By leveraging BayCare’s resources and expertise and the supportive environment of BGCS, the program seeks to inspire and equip students for careers such as patient care technicians, licensed practical nurses (LPN) and registered nurses.  

The apprenticeship program began with 10 students (five in the spring and five in the fall). From this group, BayCare hired five students (one is currently in the LPN program), while the others pursued college degrees. The students commit to working in the program for three months, every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, after school from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Upon graduation, they will have completed five weeks of training and seven weeks of preceptorship, including 40 hours as a nurse helper and 40 hours as a transporter.  

Lisa Crumbley, a BayCare nursing instructor and the student apprenticeship program coordinator, trains the students for five weeks before they begin fieldwork.  

“Once they go to the hospital, they get paired with the preceptor,” noted Crumbley. “The preceptor kind of shows them the ropes, teaching them how to be a nurse helper and transporter.”  

BayCare team members become role models, teaching students how to interact with patients, and providing a comprehensive introduction to various facets of the health care industry.  

“Whether it’s a single-parent household or different income levels, we're able to give an opportunity to any student facing challenges in their life,” said Mari Nicole Rosales, MPA, a workforce readiness coordinator for BCGS. “We provide a safe space, academic enrichment, leadership and character development – helping them succeed in life.”  

Rosales added that many students at the Boys & Girls Clubs have never thought of college as an option. And with the rising costs of higher education, programs like this one offer students alternatives beyond traditional four-year colleges or universities.  

“A common sentiment among the students is that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” added Rosales. “It's rare for any hospital to give a 17- or 18-year-old the chance to work hands on in a hospital, but they have all really enjoyed the program, and it's been a success.”  

In fact, almost 90% of the students who have completed the program so far are now employed by BayCare. Not only are they confident in their desire to work in health care, but they are also choosing to return to BayCare. 

The benefits of the BayCare and BGCS student apprenticeship program are multifaceted, impacting students, the community and the health care industry at large. For students, the program offers a unique opportunity to explore health care careers, often sparking a passion for a field that they might not have discovered otherwise. The combination of hands-on experience, mentorship and educational support builds confidence and competence, preparing students for future academic and career success.  

For the community, focusing on students from underserved areas or backgrounds helps bridge gaps in health care access and education. Community health projects benefit participants and have a direct positive impact on local health outcomes, promoting wellness and awareness.  

For the health care industry, the program addresses workforce shortages by creating a pipeline of motivated, well-prepared young individuals ready to enter the health care field. This proactive approach ensures a steady influx of new talent, essential for the sustainability and growth of health care services.  

The success of the apprenticeship program is best illustrated through the stories of its participants. For instance – 19-year-old Naomie Marroquin, a patient care tech at Morton Plant Hospital. Growing up, she knew she wanted to be in the medical field but never thought it was possible without connections.   

“I talked to my guidance counselor, and she told me about the Boys & Girls Clubs [of the Suncoast] opportunity with BayCare,” said Marroquin. “I'm 19 years old and already working for BayCare. I want to help patients.” This program has opened her eyes to new experiences, fueling her ambition to become a general surgeon.  

Similarly, Sophie Malecki, 17, a part-time patient transporter at Morton Plant Hospital, always knew she wanted to be in the medical field but lacked the necessary experience. She found the internship to be a way to gain health care experience at a young age.  

“My favorite part of the internship has been working in the hospital, getting to see the setting and the people that work here. I got a taste of the medical field and the BayCare values. They treat everyone so nicely.”  

Looking ahead, BayCare and BGCS aim to expand the program, reaching more students and diversifying the range of health care careers covered. The success of the partnership has even prompted interest from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania to replicate the program.  

“BayCare and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast envision a future where every student, regardless of background, can explore and pursue a career in health care, contributing to a more equitable and well-staffed health care system,” added Crumbley. “The BayCare and Boys & Girls Clubs student apprenticeship program is more than just a training initiative; it is an investment in today’s youth, building a healthier, more robust community and health care system for the future.”