Novant Health Internship Supports Young Mom on a Nursing Career Path

selfie of Avery Lowe, bridges to healthcare recipientAs a young girl, Avery Lowe dreamed of growing up to become a nurse. “My mom worked in healthcare and also had a lot of health issues. I wanted to be someone who helped sick people feel better.”

The aspirations of childhood usually take many turns, of course, and Avery admits her early thoughts about nursing were probably naive. “I knew I wanted to be a nurse without really knowing what that meant,” she said. “It was just something in my heart. When Novant Health gave me a chance to see all the different aspects of healthcare for myself, I knew it was a great opportunity.”

The opportunity came to Avery by way of Novant Health’s Bridges to Healthcare, a paid internship program for high school students offering real-world observation and training within a hospital setting. As a way to engage firsthand with many different departments and skills needed across a modern healthcare system, the program promotes economic mobility while building a viable pipeline of future healthcare workers who can come to the profession knowing what to expect.

Made possible through philanthropic support through Novant Health Foundation, Bridges to Healthcare provides high school students in Forsyth, Mecklenburg and Rowan counties real-world experience and mentorship through clinical and nonclinical rotations in a variety of healthcare service areas, including radiology, rehabilitation, respiratory services and human resources. Students can also receive educational assistance for healthcare-related coursework at any community college in North Carolina.

Avery smiles when she says she sensed the scope of this opportunity more than she fully understood it. “I was in the 11th grade,” she said. “I was curious, but I had no idea how incredible it would be until I got into the program. As I look back, I can see this was a really big deal in my life.”

Avery was the only student at her high school in Kannapolis, North Carolina, to be selected for the program and one of 10 in Rowan County. “I felt proud and grateful,” she said. She is aware that a lot of people she will probably never meet are responsible for this unique career-focused educational experience. “If it weren’t for everyone who supports the program, I never would have gotten the chance. ” selfie of Avery Lowe, bridges to healthcare recipient

Avery was thrilled by the variety of hands-on learning encounters made possible by Bridges to Healthcare. “Especially the time I spent in the emergency department,” she says. “That’s where I hope to work as an RN one day, so it was exciting and intense to see what it’s like.” She recalls many dramatic episodes, including patients afflicted by stroke, injured in car accidents, and dealing with emergency-level complications during pregnancy. “It was a lot,” she said.

Staying with the program was exactly what Avery wanted. She completed the initial phase of the Bridges to Healthcare program in December 2023 and attended a local graduation event with her mom. Just two weeks earlier, Avery had given birth to her son. “Novant Health accepted me from the start and then stayed beside me when things got hard,” Avery said. “To be honest, my life has been hard in a lot of ways. Getting in the Bridges to Healthcare program was such an important thing for me. It gave me focus, insight and confidence in myself. I plan to continue the final phase of the program and get my RN license.”

For now, Avery continues to work as a CNA at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center. She is grateful to be part of so many patient journeys. “It’s what I feel called to be doing,” she said.

Avery took a deep breath before explaining an unexpected complication of her own that happened just a few months into her internship. “When I found out I was pregnant, I honestly thought I’d be kicked out of the program,” she said. “I felt so bad, like I was disappointing everyone. But when I called my manager at Novant Health to give her the news, she was friendly and supportive. She said Novant Health still believed in me, and I should stay with the program, if that’s what I wanted.”