Real-world Challenge Helps High School Students Explore Health Care Pathways


Solving for X may be the goal for a math test, but not a necessarily the question we encounter in the health care arena. Kaiser Permanente makes financial and qualitative decisions every day that affect the lives of our 11.8 million members.

When visiting a medical office, physicians or nurses will often conduct a blood screening to inform what is happening in our bodies. The finance team, in collaboration with clinicians and operations professionals, are tasked with figuring out which blood analysis machines are most appropriate for each center. There are many factors – capital costs, cost of performing each test, mobility of machines, and turnaround time – that need to be carefully weighed and considered.

This was the real-life problem high-school students from Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, Maryland had to solve in a professional challenge event at the Center for Total Health on February 27. By allowing students to apply their academic skills to authentic workplace challenges, explicit connections can be made between classroom learning and future careers. Ultimately, students become motivated to acquire the advanced skills necessary to succeed in challenging STEM-related coursework, and then to pursue the high-growth STEM careers that require those skills.

Kaiser Permanente hosted the event in collaboration with 114th Partnership, a nonprofit in Rockville, Maryland that helps young people navigate education and career pathways. Working together with employers and educators, 114th Partnership converts real workplace challenges into opportunities for students to get hands-on, real-life experience. According to Brittany Pelayo, Programs Analyst at 114th Partnership, “These challenges are designed to increase engagement for high school students to spark their interest in high-opportunity careers with companies like Kaiser Permanente.”

During the challenge, 29 students worked in small groups with the help of a KP mentor to analyze and evaluate the best option for a KP medical center. Students were given individual sets of data along with constraints that KP considers when making these decisions. Each group completed a scorecard and built a spreadsheet, followed by a presentation with their recommendations and feedback. Executive Director of Account Management at KP, Gracelyn McDermott found the event could help prepare the Kaiser employees of the future. “We are excited to have this opportunity to allow students to practice a real ‘on-the-job’ challenge. We know these students are the leaders and professionals of the future and they will be shaping the healthcare industry.”

The event concluded with a review of career pathways and opportunities at Kaiser Permanente. “We want the students to see themselves in a career where they are solving the challenges that impact us all. Working alongside KP employees for these types of challenges allows students to share and explore their career interests,” said DeLinda Washington, Vice President of Human Resources at KP.

Students were able to tour the Center before heading back to their school. One student shared that the best part about the event was that she was “able to see other jobs that [she] might have not considered before.”

The Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health hosts internal and external educational events. All events – including annual banquets, quarterly meetings, trainings, interviews – feature healthy catering options and can be customized to incorporate the interactive exhibits that make the Center for Total health experience both fun and informative for attendees. If your organization is interested in hosting a meeting or any other event, please send us a request via our website. We look forward to hearing from you!

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