Using achievement goal theory and positive youth development frameworks, this exploratory study reports findings of an innovative career exploration experience for high school student members of a health science academy (HSA). Students interested in healthcare careers (n = 9) completed two interactions with adolescents living with complex congenital heart defects or acquired heart disease (n = 9). Adolescents with cardiac conditions shared their medical treatment journey and life experiences with peers using Beads of Courage, a narrative medicine tool, and a journal that guided reflection. Post-interaction evaluation indicated HSA participants ranked interacting with peers with cardiac conditions as the third extremely helpful learning experience out of nine options, next to shadowing in a healthcare setting and attending career informational meetings. This activity helped them reach Health Occupation Students of America learning outcomes, such as increased sensitivity toward patients’ stories and motivation toward healthcare career choice. Adolescents with cardiac conditions reported appreciation for the opportunity to teach about their healthcare experiences, which increased their confidence in speaking about their medical treatment journey. The youth development technique of peer listening, advancing high school students’ career exploration, and providing a platform to share their experience for adolescents with chronic illness merits further exploration.



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