Future Healthcare Professionals Club Mends the Gap


They are the problem-solvers. The solution-seekers. The gluers of cracks. The ones who hear about the student experience first-hand. The creative thinkers who see a gap and create the bridge.

Student support advisors Monique Billings and Chelsey Bauer, both with the School of Academic Advancement, saw a need for a new club dedicated to students interested in healthcare-related fields. They knew the key component was to remove all barriers and pre-requisites to join.

students interacting with an anatomy study table
The Future Healthcare Professionals Club allows students to get hands-on learning opportunities sooner.

Learning. Not Waiting

“The Future Healthcare Professionals Club gets students involved as soon as they express interest in a healthcare related field,” Billings says. “When students are waiting to be accepted into a health sciences core program, it can be due to spots available or the time it takes in each semester to complete all their pre-requisites. Because of this, there’s a gap of time when students are with us but not yet connecting with faculty and students from those programs or able to engage in activities like internships and practicums.”

Chelsey Bauer (L), Monique Billings (R)
Chelsey Bauer (left) and Monique Billings

Both Billings and Bauer knew that while they couldn’t shorten this gap of time, they could fill it with a meaningful student experience.

“Creating this club matters a great deal. These students were seeing these programs from a distance. But it’s the close-up experience and learning that usually informs a student whether they’ll enjoy that specific field or program. We wanted to give this to them.”

Madison College student Erika Portillo, currently in the University Transfer - Pre-Professional Health program, is the club’s president. She sees tremendous value in the club.

“I love how we’re learning about all the different options and pathways we can take in the healthcare field.”

Portillo’s plan is to transfer to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences program and pursue a bachelor’s in nutrition and dietetics. As much as she enjoys the activities and events, it’s the connections with like-minded peers that she appreciates the most.

“It can be hard to find a space where you belong. This club has given me an opportunity to relate and connect with other students. Sometimes it’s as simple as knowing you’re not alone and that other students can relate to your struggle and experience.”

Erika Portillo photo
“I love how we’re learning about all the different options and pathways we can take in the healthcare field.”
Erika Portillo
'22-23 Future Healthcare Professionals Club President

Eye-opening Activities

The club is now giving every interested student—no matter where they are in their academic journey—a way to get involved, feel included and have an opportunity to be engaged.

The club focuses on events, panel discussions, tours of healthcare facilities, hands-on learning opportunities, volunteer activities and more. Industry professionals and students from healthcare come and share their experience and knowledge.

“It’s amazing what happens when a student sees themselves in the experience and story of someone in the field that is doing the work. That’s the connection they need to identify early on that, yes, they want to pursue that field,” Bauer says.

Madison College healthcare students practicing on a patient mannequin
Students work with simulated patients to learn the many aspects of healthcare careers.

Bauer has also seen how the club is opening students’ eyes to all the health sciences programs available to them at Madison College.

“We see a lot of students coming in wanting to pursue one certain program. But part of that is because they haven’t learned about all the other options. We’ve already noticed how the club’s panel discussions and hands-on activities are helping students see what could be a better fit, as well as showing them embedded pathways along the way.”

There’s more to it though, as Billings explains.

“We saw students disengaging because they weren’t seeing themselves in these programs. They didn’t feel that sense of belonging that every student is looking for. We know that students who are more engaged and feel like they belong to something are also more motivated and driven to stay and keep showing up.”

She believes this club is encouraging students to stay on their path, even when it feels like a long road ahead.

“Information has power. It’s important for students to see the whole trajectory of their time here at Madison College. When they see the finish line, it helps them feel prepared and know they’re working toward something. It’s also important for them to see mile markers along the way.”

Portillo credits the readiness of both Billings and Bauer to seek and act on student feedback.

“I admire how much they both care. They listen to us, and then they figure out a way to make it happen. They know how important these experiences are for students, and they always go above and beyond.”

As Billings and Bauer look ahead to 2023, they are already making big plans and finding more ways to team up with nursing and health sciences programs and experts within the community.

“We’re planning a large speaking event for the spring, and we’ll continue to bring in industry experts and speakers. We’re also planning tours so that students can see everything firsthand. The more we can connect students with their interests, the more excited they’ll be. And that’s what we want.”

photo: Monique Billings, Erika Portillo and Chelsey Bauer
Advisors Billings and Bauer meet with motivated students like Erika every day.

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