Angela Austin

Angela Austin, School Liaison Program Coordinator | Education Resources 

Tell us about your career, how did you become interested in it?

I started working as a communication educator, and then worked in admissions for colleges and secondary training schools.  I am a High School Liaison Coordinator for Summit Health.

Giving career advice and career exploration experience to students of all ages is a career I thoroughly enjoy.  Every moment of the day can be different and every student has different needs. Workforce development is a passion of mine. 

How long have you been School Liaison for the Healthcare Career Institute?

I am in my 6th year of working with Summit Health’s School Liaison program and the Healthcare Career Institute.

What is the Health Care Careers Institute Program ?

The Healthcare Career Institute Program (HCI) is an award-winning, intense career exploration program for high school juniors and seniors. Students are graded on course work, attendance, work ethic, and soft skills. The summer program earns 0.5 credits toward graduation and fall program earns 1 credit toward graduation.

What school districts participate?

All Franklin County School Districts and Shippensburg High School participate in Summit Health’s HCI program.

What is the purpose?

HCI is an intense career exploration for students. They will be able to really explore if a career in healthcare is right for them.  The HCI program also helps Summit Health encourage local youth interested in healthcare careers in hopes that they may one day possibly return to our community.

How long it has been in place?

Summit Health’s Healthcare Career Institute program began in the school year of 2002 and 2003.

What are the benefits to students and hospital (is Chambersburg Hospital involved as well) and your role?

The students benefit from the HCI program by learning if healthcare is the right career field for them. It also helps the students learn what courses and other activities they need to continue through high school to better prepare them for post high school education. We also talk about post-high school education planning to help better prepare the students for the future.

All Summit Health affiliates, including Chambersburg Hospital, Waynesboro Hospital, and our outpatient facilities participate in the HCI program. Our aim is to prepare our local students to excel in their healthcare career education in hopes that they will return to Franklin County as skilled professionals and help care for our community members - whether at a Summit Health affiliate or another local care provider.

What departments of the hospital do the students work in?

The students don’t actually do hands-on work.  The students shadow our professionals and they can also volunteer and help with filling water pitchers, answering call bells, answering telephones, assisting with meal time, helping patients as needed, making unoccupied beds, delivering flowers, sitting and talking with patients or read to them, and many other duties. Over 35 departments participate with HCI.

Is there classwork involved (at the school)?

Our program requires classwork as well as shadowing. I am their teacher for this program. The students earn a credit towards graduation for the fall program and a half credit during the summer program.  The fall program is 18 weeks and the summer program is 5 weeks.

Do the students have to wear scrubs?

No, the students do not have to wear scrubs.

How much do they interact with patients?

Our HCI students interact with patients almost every day of their program.

What is the most rewarding part of your job, the most challenging?

The challenging part is coordinating the schedule for 18 weeks for 25 students.
It’s rewarding to hear from students years after I had them as a student in HCI. The students tell me how much they appreciated being in the program and how the program helped them move forward in their career.  

The most rewarding part of my job is when I see students that I taught in the HCI program now working as a health care professional in our community. I am so proud of their accomplishments.

Describe some memorable experiences you have with students where you feel the program has made a real difference in their lives and help put them on the right career path.

There are so many memorable experiences and times when I’ve felt the program made a real difference in the students’ lives. I’ll share one example from one of my students.

“Today I was thinking over my time spent in high school and all of the planning I had done to achieve my goals, and I remembered the time I spent in HCI. And I have to say I am so grateful at the opportunity you had given me there. HCI has been the biggest push and guide to what I wanted to do with my life; I've always wanted to be a Doctor, but HCI has given me a reason. And it wasn't the fact that I got to shadow doctors, but it's the fact that I was able to experience a true community of healthcare professionals. All my doubts and fears for the future are lifted for this reason.”

Why is this program such a good idea?

This program is an incredible opportunity for our youth. Summit Health allows a high school student the opportunity to see how a hospital organization works from the inside and gives the student an opportunity to explore health careers and speak to healthcare professionals who are wonderful mentors and have excellent advice and wisdom for the students.

How has it changed since its inception and do you plan any more changes? 

I’m proud to say that we have made a few tweaks over the years, but this successful program continues to run as it did in the beginning.

Is the program evaluated at the end of each year to determine if changes could be made to improve it?

The program is evaluated every year. We want to continue to provide the students with an enriching learning experience.

What communication do you have with the school districts to introduce the program to the students and do you evaluate their participation for the school district?

Immediately following the December holiday season, I start recruiting for the HCI program by visiting high schools, classrooms, key educators, supervisors, etc. I get the word out by doing in-person visits, emails and a newsletter for schools.

We also make information available on the Summit Health website, www.SummitHealth.org/educationresources, and the Summit Health Facebook page, www.facebook.com/SummitHealth.

Anything else would you like to add?

Tenth and Eleventh grade students must apply for the HCI program and go through an interview process. If students are interested in the program, please visit SummitHealth.org/educationresources to fill out an application, or email me at aaustin@summithealth.org.