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Helping teens imagine a future in healthcare

December 13, 2018

Student Talia Hoeser learns firsthand about getting a cast from AHS staffer Thelma Ogden in Grande Prairie during Take Our Kids to Work Day.

Take Our Kids to Work Day program partners with Big Brothers Big Sisters in Grande Prairie

Story by Alison Walker

GRANDE PRAIRIE — Take Our Kids to Work Day gives students an opportunity to shadow an Alberta Health Services (AHS) staff member for a day — either a parent, family member or friend — to explore a potential career in healthcare.

Many students, however, don’t have a family connection to the healthcare field, while others face barriers to participation in the day. This is the motivation behind a new pilot partnership between AHS and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Grande Prairie and Area.

“These students are just about to enter high school and they have to start thinking about what they want their lives to look like,” says Corinne Patterson, Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Grande Prairie and Area. “There are so many different paths they can take and getting them into the workforce for a day gives them an outlook on what life looks like outside of school.”

On Nov. 14 this year, employees at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital played host to 11 students affiliated with Big Brothers Big Sisters. After orientation, the Grade 9 students toured QEII’s facilities and maintenance engineering, laundry services and nutrition food services, while others explored units such as nursing and acute inpatient psychiatry with their AHS hosts.

The students wrapped up the morning in eSim (simulation training) for a CPR competition, while a few also visited the casting room, where they received a cast. The afternoon included a visit to the EMS station and a tour of the STARS Air Ambulance hangar.

Two members of AHS’s Talent Management Strategies team, Sarah McDonald and Leona Small, started this pilot project. Small’s passion for mentorship and connection to Big Brothers Big Sisters helped spark the idea.

“I’ve always been an advocate for mentorship — it’s important to have someone there as a sounding board,” says Small. “Big Brothers Big Sisters works with a lot of vulnerable students who wouldn’t have the same type of exposure to healthcare career options. This partnership allowed us to tap into students while they’re still in school and help them consider a career in healthcare.”

McDonald, Small and Patterson say they hope to repeat the pilot project in 2019, and eventually expand the partnership to other hospitals and other zones.

“There are a few things we’d like to iron out, but we’d like to do it again,” adds Patterson. “Overall it’s been a great success. In talking to the kids and asking for their feedback, they’ve all had some pretty big smiles.”

The Learning Partnership created Take Our Kids to Work Day in 1994 to support and enhance experiential learning, career exploration and career readiness among Canadian public school students. AHS first participated in 2009, and this year saw a total of 346 students spend a day at an AHS site or facility.

For more information on Take Our Kids to Work Day and other AHS student engagement programs, contact