Learning about Careers in Health Communication
Students in the Health Communication class recently toured the new Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital and learned what it is like to work in hospital public relations. The 23‑story, state-of-the-art hospital opened in June just a few blocks from Loyola’s Water Tower campus. It replaced the 131-year-old Children’s Hospital of Chicago in Lincoln Park.
Julie Pesch, public affairs director, hosted the visit. The tour began in the lobby, where life-size models of whales donated by the Shedd Aquarium hang from the ceiling. The students also visited the Crown Sky Garden, an airy space on the 11th floor filled with towering bamboo plants, where kids, families and caregivers can relax in nature without leaving the hospital. “It didn’t seem like a hospital,” said Ericka Reyes, a junior majoring in Advertising and Public Relations and Psychology: Social Science.
The final stop was one of the bright, cheerful patient floors, which includes private spaces where families could gather, relax, eat, and rest. “I loved seeing different parts of the hospital and how the communication team had featured them in media coverage,” said Eva Robinson, a senior majoring in Advertising and Public Relations and Spanish.
Pesch told students that her seven-member team spends much of its time on media relations. This includes identifying stories about patients and research conducted at the hospital and working with journalists to get the stories aired, published, or posted online. The team also publicizes special events, such as a recent event attended by Sarah Jessica Parker and Harry Connick, Jr.
Building and opening the new hospital generated considerable local media coverage, Pesch said. One of the largest stories was about moving 126 patients by ambulance from the old hospital to the new one in a 14‑hour period, which came off like clockwork.
Pesch said communicators at the hospital are also involved in employee communication, public affairs, government relations, and community relations, and also work closely with the hospital’s marketing team. She said the hospital worked diligently to communicate with its residential neighbors to overcome the neighbors’ opposition to the hospital’s plans to build a helicopter landing facility on its roof.
Assistant Professor Marjorie Kruvand, who teaches the Health Communication class, said visits like these can help students “try on” possible careers. work in many types of settings, including hospitals, corporations, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and foundations.