We have a lot to cover, so let's get started. We'll begin with perhaps the most critical healthcare need: Nursing.
Erica Gruss cannot ever remember seeing her father walk.
Erica Gruss: When I was two months old my dad was in a car wreck and he became paralyzed from the shoulders down and my mom quit her job and took care of him and my sisters ever since.
Inspired by her father and how well her entire family has adjusted over the years, Erica feels she has a lot to offer those facing a similar situation. A senior at Conemaugh's School of Nursing, she's leaning towards a nursing career in rehabilitation.
Erica Gruss: Because a lot of the stuff that they do there are things that we've done with my father, and you know, working with them to get them to be able to use things that are injured, their arms, legs, get them to walk again, or you know, do daily things better, I thought that was really neat because make a difference in their life is showing them how they can get back to where they were before their accident or before their injuries.
Erica will graduate in June with more than 1,000 hours of clinical experience.
Erica Gruss: It's one of the hardest two years of my life but I am learning a lot... They'll tell you right off the bat when you want to actually apply there they'll tell you this is an accelerated program and that means you have really got to work.
While Erica is a traditional student, starting nursing school right out of high school, plenty of other students are anything but traditional.
Heather Wilt: Last year out of our class of 80 about 70 percent of our individuals that came in were what we would consider second career individuals, so we really are seeing more and more.
Patty McDonald: I was selling insurance. I sold supplemental accident and health insurance for a company based out of Chicago for ten years.
Patty's travels in insurance sales came to an abrupt halt in a deadly car accident that took three lives and left Patty unable to work for six months.
Patty McDonald: My husband was reading the newspaper and said they are always hiring nurses. You always mentioned that you wanted to be a nurse, what do you think about going back to school? As we sat and talked about it and that was on a Friday afternoon, Monday morning I made a phone call and got the ball rolling.
Heather Wilt: We've had individuals come in from steel mills, from the mines, we have had a few teachers that have decided maybe nursing is a good option for them. So we get all kinds of backgrounds.
In Memorial's Emergency Department, you'll find RN Heidi Wild. A one time Interior Designer.
Heidi Wild: It was good for me for a while, but I was just ready for a change and I had always had this inner desire to be involved in medicine.
Like Patty, Heidi liked the idea of being able to start a new career in just two years and now the emergency department feels like home.
Heidi Wild: I love that we go from one experience to the next. I love the different contact that I have with people and that we pretty much are self sufficient in the emergency room so we have the capability of seeing a patient from start to finish until they are admitted and just the experiences that we do from starting IVs, drawing blood, doing EKGs, many, many opportunities.
Registered Nurse Chuck Rutter, now with Windber Hospice, is also a bit non-traditional. He was one of only 6 male nurses to graduate from Conemaugh's School of Nursing in 2004.
Chuck Rutter: One of my patients once said to me, when did men become nurses? And I said, probably around the same time as women became doctors, and she was one of my favorite patients after that.
Now men make up about 25 percent of the Conemaugh School of Nursing's freshman class.
Heather Wilt: they are really drawn in by the technology a lot of times, but a lot of them really love that one-on-one interaction, and again, the opportunities are really, really out there.
Chuck Rutter: Nursing school is by far not easy. You have to be very dedicated and it's a life changing event to get through nursing school, but once you get there it is a great, great, career. You get gratitude from seeing somebody and making a difference in somebody's life. That's the reward. That's the benefit of nursing for me.
A lifelong nurse, Connie Hromoko can't imagine doing anything else.
Connie Hromoko: It's the best thing I ever did, it really is. When I walk through the doors I just feel like I am at home.
Connie started out in intensive care nursing at Miners Medical Center and now has a wide variety of administrative roles including patient safety, infection control and employee education.
Connie Hromoko: The career field is wide open with administrative type jobs, teaching, insurance companies, schools, factories, being an occupational nurse. There is just so much out there.
By the year 2020 there will be an estimated shortage of 800-thousand nurses - so the job outlook is excellent and according to Connie life as a nurse is never boring.
Connie Hromoko: Always new medicines, always new procedures and it's just the day to day surprises that you get. I've been here for 26 years and I'm going to stay here until I'm done which is at least another ten years. This place is like a second home for me and that is probably one of the reasons I stayed long.
If you are thinking of a nursing career a strong science background is a plus. You can check out more requirements and get information on the Conemaugh School of Nursing at www.conemaugh.org Nursing scholarships are also available through generous donations to the Conemaugh Health Foundation.