Hundreds of students learn about VA medical careers

High school juniors and seniors explore professions at IM center

Ally Niven, a junior at Pembine-Beecher-Dunbar School, gets a hands-on experience seeing what it is like to prepare a patient for surgery under the guidance of Ronald Pittsley, RN, at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain. Looking on is Steve Schlitt, a senior at Pembine-Beecher-Dunbar.

IRON MOUNTAIN – The Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center hosted 265 high school juniors and seniors from eight area high schools and home school programs for its sixth annual VA Career Day on Tuesday.

The VA Career Day event provides local students the opportunity to get a first-hand look, and in many cases hands on experience, of the various careers at a VA health care facility.

Students were able to browse up to 34 career booths and talk with VA employees eager to discuss their careers. Students were exposed to a wide variety of clinical and non-clinical professions ranging from nursing, physician, social work, and rehabilitation medicine to engineering, finance, law enforcement, and supply management.

“I was very impressed with the number and variety of careers here,” said Amy Bracket, business education teacher for the Pembine-Beecher-Dunbar Schools. “Our students were very engaged when they were visiting the career booths,” she added.

Harold Payne, a guidance counselor at Forest Park High School, attended last year’s VA Career Day and agrees.  “Our kids are very surprised at the variety of career opportunities available right here in Iron Mountain at this medical center,” said Payne.

At some of the career booths, students were able to participate in hands-on demonstrations.  At the Surgical Services booth students were able to prep a mannequin for surgery and try their hand at using surgical tools such as surgical staples and scalpels.

Students interested in a respiratory career took turns inserting a tube down the airway of a computerized mannequin and at the audiology booth students could check out state-of-the-art hearing aids.

Lilly VanLoon is a junior at Iron Mountain High School and has been exploring medical professions.

“I thought today was a great experience to see how this profession works,” VanLoon said.  “It provided me with good intel in my search of medical careers.”

“Many of our students are not sure of what they would like to pursue as a career,” said Payne.  “This is a great opportunity to see firsthand a number of different professions.”

Seven area high schools participated in this year’s VA Career Day: Iron Mountain, Kingsford, North Dickinson, Forest Park, Pembine-Beecher-Dunbar, Niagara and Florence.

“We believe this event provides a great opportunity to show these teens the career opportunities they can pursue not only in the VA but right here in Iron Mountain,” said MaryAnne Gibler, EEO program manager at the medical center and coordinator of VA Career Day.

“Over one-third of our VA employees here at the Iron Mountain VA are eligible to retire in the next six years, and this is similar among the VA medical centers nationwide,” she said.  “It is important that we educate the next generation on the rewarding careers available in serving our veterans right here in our back yard.”