SHAPE Program Introduces 50 Students to Health Care; Stops at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s for Hands-on Activities

students work on endoscopy equipment
Students from the SHAPE program work with Endoscopy tools, finding marshmallows during simulations.

For its fourth straight year, the SHAPE program made a stop at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s to learn hands-on about potential careers in health care on Wednesday, July 13, 2016. Sponsored in collaboration with Grand Valley State University School of Public Health and Grand Rapids Public Schools, the SHAPE Program introduces about 50 children who are heading into the 8th and 9th grades to health care careers.

At Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, representatives of the following six departments participated in the SHAPE program:
Surgical Services
Sterile Processing
Nutrition Services
Environmental Services and
Sous Chef.

“Our colleagues are phenomenal, developing 20-minute-long hands-on activities for the students, so they can physically touch some of the equipment used in Sterile Processing, simulate what it means to the senior adult who might have neuropathy and cataracts, or they can practice ‘suturing’ spaghetti,” said Maria Alvarez de Lopez, Manager of Community Benefit Programs. “Mercy Health Saint Mary’s leads six workshops, each one introducing the students to different services of health care to plant that seed of considering a health care career, and secondly, that they can consider Mercy Health as a potential future employer. It brings tremendous value to the community and to the next generation of students, and we are thrilled to support this program.”

eric christopherson, sterile processing
Eric Christopherson, holding an orthopedic tray from Sterile Processing, likes the variety of his work and demonstrating to the students from the SHAPE Program how intense the job can get. “It’s very demanding, yet rewarding. I like to emphasize to the students that West Michigan has many accredited programs to choose from where they could continue their education and work in Sterile Processing.”


Our colleagues enjoy the exchange with the students as well. “It’s fun to see their excitement, as people don’t often know what we do,” said Eric Christopherson, who works in Sterile Processing, who brought a tray of surgical equipment used in orthopedic cases to show the students. “It’s a joy for me to explain to the students how equipment is rendered sterile, and how important it is for the hospital to have sterile equipment. We treat each tray like we are preparing them for our own family to be operated on.”

How do the students react? “In past years, we have had some students so excited by the program, they have asked me, ‘How old do you have to be to work here?'” laughs Alvarez de Lopez.

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