Van Dam, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, found that working in a hospital environment at an early age boosted her confidence about pursuing a health career.

As a nursing student at Northeastern, I knew that it was difficult for new graduates to get hired without having some experience under their belt. I was lucky enough to be part of a high school internship program at Boston’s Children Hospital that introduced teens to nursing career opportunities.

This was my first step into health care, and I found out about the training and education necessary to be a nurse. I made it my goal to complete more internships, gain skills, make important connections, and bring more to the table than a diploma when I graduated. I did a coop on the surgical medical floor at Tufts Medical Center as a clinical assistant, and then applied to again Children’s Hospital to do my clinical pediatric rotation there and stayed for three more coops.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

As graduation neared and it was time to take my nursing board exams, I spoke to my nurse manager about coming on permanently as a staff nurse.

It’s been a year now since I was hired full-time at Children’s Hospital, and I have since completed the orientation program for newly minted RNs. I’m so glad that I set goals from the get-go and built relationships that made it possible to get a job right away in a difficult economy.

My family came over from Vietnam when I was very young, and my parents have always expected that I work hard, contribute financially, and succeed in whatever endeavor I choose. I love being a nurse and I’m glad I got an early jumpstart into my career. No matter old you are or what field you’re in, getting some early experience in the industry is always a great idea. Volunteering, internships, or shadowing professionals can be a time of discovery and navigation, when interests, passions, and strengths can be nurtured if you let yourself soak up what’s around you.