TMC Program Gives Students a Head Start on Careers

Workforce Development Manager Katie Brooks and future nurse Ana Serrano

Ana Serrano just graduated from high school, but she’s already well on her way to her future career in nursing, thanks to a vocational program that allowed her to gain experience at Tucson Medical Center.

Serrano, 17, said ever since a close family member was diagnosed with lupus, she knew she wanted to help care for people some day. “The doctors get a lot of the credit, but the nurses really have an impact on patients and their families,” Serrano said.

 So Serrano signed up for a program through the Joint Technological Education District to become a certified nursing assistant, while working as a School to Work intern for the past two semesters in the cardiac unit at TMC.

Starting in June, Serrano will join 19 other recent high school graduates for a week-long orientation to acquire new acute care skills to obtain a certificate to become a patient care technician. The orientation is funded by Pima County One-Stop Career System.

Tucson Youth Development will then pay their salaries for a five week summer program. Two students will participate in phlebotomy training, while another 18 will work alongside a seasoned patient care technician in the hospital.

Katie Brooks, the manager of workforce development at TMC, said it’s a win-win. “For Tucson Medical Center, it helps us in our recruitment, since we’re always looking for good patient care techs,” Brooks said. “For students, it gives them the opportunity to begin their health careers in an environment that is very nurturing.”

“I always tell these young people that if they show a desire to learn and demonstrate that they’re motivated, the people in this hospital will be phenomenal mentors and will go to the ends of the earth for them,” she said.

Brooks also tells them to consider the opportunity something akin to a five-week job interview, with the potential to stay on afterward. Once at TMC, employees are eligible to apply for tuition reimbursement that can pay anywhere from 75 percent to 100 percent of the cost of approved classes.

That’s what happened for Kristen Moorehead, who came to TMC right out of Catalina High School in the first cohort that went through the program, in 2004.

Now a nurse at TMC, she calls the program “one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.”

She recalled on her first day, assigned to the intensive care unit, she was scared to death, even though she found it exciting. But soon, she switched to nursing from her original intent to become a physical therapist. “The staff was amazing and everyone was willing to help me and show me new things,” she said.

The hands-on time helps make sure students really want to be in the health care field, Moorehead said, and it helps TMC determine if they’d be a good fit as permanent employees.

For Serrano, who already has a full scholarship to the University of Arizona, she’s already sure nursing is the career for her. Thanks to her vocational programs, she’s already gained some introduction to a range of procedures, from catheter care to wound care.

“I guess my favorite part would be when the patients start doing things on their own because they’re getting better and stronger. That’s nice to see.”

Her charge nurse, Marcie Paradise, was the first person Serrano met on her first day of work and has since become Serrano’s ideal. “In four years, when I am finished, I want to be like her. I want to be the best RN I can possibly be.”


  1. Nancy Richards-Stower says:

    What a fabulous program!

  2. kathleen ball says:

    I love working here because of reasons like this. We care about eachother and the future of our hospital and also the future of our youth.

  3. Zianna Hughson says:

    I wish I could have help from TMC like this!! Sounds like such a great offer. I’ve always wanted to be a nurse! What a lucky girl!


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