KAILUA-KONA — During her senior year at Kealakehe High School, Turfa Zaman came to the Big Island Teen Health Camp already knowing she wanted to be a nurse.
“I just wanted to come here to make more connections, get to know other professionals here or just see different aspects of health,” said Zaman, who graduated from the school in 2014.
And on Saturday, Zaman, now a nursing student at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, returned to Kealakehe High School and sat on the other side of the table, speaking with today’s students about careers in health and how they can prepare now for their futures.
The Big Island Teen Health Camp drew about 35 students to Kealakehe High School on Saturday to learn about pathways toward careers in health as well as have practical, hands-on experiences about what they can expect when working in health care.
In addition to meeting with college students pursuing educations in various health fields and working professionals, attendees also had the opportunity to learn how to suture wounds, put on and remove casts and get educated about nutrition and the state of public health.
“If you talk to the medical students now, they tell you their experiences, so you kinda know what you’re getting yourself into as well, not just the statistics like how much you’ll make and stuff,” said Liana Lawson, a junior at Kealakehe High School. “So I think that’s really cool and what steps they had to take to get to medical school, so I know what to do when I get there.”
Lawson said she’s interested in pursuing pharmacy or forensic chemistry, but said just coming to the health camp gave her a chance to learn about other health careers too.
Medicine, she said, is a career field that beats a desk job.
“I just can’t sit behind a desk and just do the same thing over and over again,” she said. “The medical field, it’s always changing and they always have new technology advances; so I feel like it would be perfect for me, because I’ll always learn and I will never get bored.”
Lilia Garcia, a Kealakehe High School junior who wants to be an OB-GYN, said she’s interested in pursuing medicine because she believes maintaining the health of the community should be a primary goal, specifically in regards to younger generations.
And at the health camp, she said, she had a chance to learn about the sheer variety of medical careers that exist and that “the possibilities are limitless.”
“We don’t have to be specific yet with what we want to do, because there really are so many options,” she said.
And for the organizers behind the event, getting students excited about jobs in not just medicine but across the health care sector is part of the whole idea.
“Because it’s more than just doctors and nurses,” said Nem Lau, district resource teacher for Career Technical Education.
In past years, she said, they have brought in everyone from Hawaiian healers and acupuncturists to emergency medical technicians and physical therapists.
“You could go to a two-year college and get certified and still be in the health care career pathway. It’s all different levels and different interests and capabilities and capacity,” Lau said.
Zaman said one advantage of the health camp is that it gives students a chance to learn not just a specific skill, but get real insight into what the expectations will be should they pursue higher education in health care.
That’s important, she said, “so you’re not in total shock when you go into the profession.”
Garcia said while she’d recommend the camp to those considering careers in health, it’s also good for students who might not have any idea what they want to do.
“They can feel it out and see where they want their lives to lead,” she said.
And after meeting with nursing students, the event left the next generation of health professionals feeling more encouraged about pursuing health as a career.
“It makes it seem less scary,” said Lawson. “Talking to the students, it does seem possible. Because if you’re looking at all the schooling, it seems really overwhelming like if you’re just looking at it at an outside view. But the students here really helped me.”
Dominick Trevino, a 2011 graduate of Kealakehe High School and current nursing student at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, said the event is great for reaching students who are just starting to think of how their futures might unfold.
“Because they’re the future of everything,” he said. “So if we can get them to be the future of our health care field, that would be better.”
Trevino said the camp informs students not only about the variety of careers open to them, but of the educational opportunities to reach many of those goals — available right here on Hawaii Island.
“You don’t have to go to the mainland. You don’t have to go to a different island. We have them available here,” he said. “We have a shortage of health care workers here, so if you want to stay home and practice in our community, we have the education and the tools to make that a reality.”