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Ready for work and looking for a healthy career launch

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An ECU Allied Health Sciences student connected with a representative of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services for career information while attending Tuesday's Health Careers Fair at the East Carolina Heart Institute.

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By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Pride in a solid education showed in the faces and conversations of ECU nursing and allied health students and Pitt Community College graduates who turned out for Tuesday’s Health Career Fair at the East Carolina Heart Institute.

They were there with work on their minds.

There were more than 30 health care companies and organizations from across the country at the event to meet and greet potential employees for careers including nursing, nutrition sciences, physical and occupational therapy, mental health, public health, information management, laboratory sciences and many others disciplines.

“We offer our students interview preparation, job search assistance, networking and all those services a career center would have,” said Thomas Halasz, director of ECU Career Services.

The Health Careers Fair was open to all ECU students (including distance education students) and alumni, as well as surrounding community college students interested in health-related disciplines.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in health care occupations is projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for other occupations, adding about 2.3 million new jobs, fair organizers said. 

Participating career fair organizations included Access Family Services of Charlotte; Allied Instructional Services of Ashland, Va.; Atrium Health ( Formerly known as Carolinas HealthCare System) of Charlotte; Wayne County-based Home Health and Hospice Care, Inc.; Carolina Therapy Services of Dunn; CarolinaEast Health System of New Bern; Carteret Health Care of Morehead City; FirstHealth of the Carolinas; Kindred Hospital Rehabilitation Services and RehabCare of Albuquerque, N.M.; the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services; Novant Health of Winston-Salem and many others along the Eastern Seaboard and across the U.S.

The widespread presence of distant recruitment opportunities presented a challenge to ECU’s high priority of producing health care workers for rural eastern North Carolina, where poverty and inaccessibility rank among the nation’s highest levels.

“We focus on helping students have a clear sense of their values,” Halesz said. “If they value money, it’s important we have clarity around that. We don’t encourage (those values), but we want them to understand what their values are so they make a good, conscious decision. If they value family and local area and culture, great. We don’t want a student taking a job for a lot of money and going somewhere they’re unhappy, and we don’t want a student taking a job purely because they’re from somewhere and feel an obligation to stay there. (it is) not about our values, but the students’ values.”

Kelsey King, who just graduated from ECU with a degree in public health and came to the career fair after a month of job searching, wanted to get her name into the market and discover who is out there as a potential employer. She had not forgotten ECU’s desire for meeting rural needs.

“Public health is a broad field and you can find a job just about anywhere, so I’m trying to broaden my horizons here,” King said. “I really want to stay in eastern North Carolina because I love the east coast. All the health issues people deal with here inspire me to want to make a difference here. I want to be a youth advocate and educator.

“Right now, I’m more interested in enhancing the lives of a community and its people than making money,” King said.

King talked with Pam Robinson, a regional rehabilitation director for Virginia-based LifeWorks, which also has nine branches in North Carolina.

“We pride ourselves on being a patient-focused company for more than 40 years, returning more than 80 percent of our patients back to their homes after spending time at one of our rehab centers,” Robinson said. “We have many opportunities for people to work in rural North Carolina communities and have quite a few ECU students working at our clinics in North Carolina and Virginia. I’m quite impressed with the ones I’ve worked with in our locations here.”

Morgan Rowe of Mocksville, near Winston-Salem, came to the career fair looking for a job in physical rehabilitation at an inpatient hospital, but said she is open to other options. She became deeply involved in the ENC region during her years as a student, she said.

“I understand the health care needs here, but I’ll probably want to return home for a while,” Rowe said. “My top priority is to have a job that I love in a place where I feel at home.”

Rowe said the fair helped her learn about the importance of face time and networking with other professionals.

“It’s important to evaluate your potential employer and an organization’s culture,” she said. “I’d like to have a good mentorship program available and people in place to guide me as I develop my career.”

For information about ECU Career Services or to make an appointment with a career services representative call 328-6050 or visit online at www.ecu.edu/cs-studentaffairs/career.

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