Look, there are people in their 50s and 60s who still don’t know what they want to be when they grow up — and they can wait out their days pondering various careers.

But for high school students, the clock is ticking. Big decisions loom on the not-too-distant horizon. College. Majors. Internships.

To help these students make intelligent, well-thought-out decisions, counselors encourage them to take advantage of career day events such as the one offered Monday at South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest. Some 75 students from 12 local high schools, including Andrew, Homewood-Flossmoor, Rich Central, Thornwood, Oak Forest and Lincoln-Way East, participated in the hospital’s first ever career day.

“I liked talking with the doctors, they had a lot of good insight,” said Payton Novak, a senior at Andrew. She has her sights set on becoming a surgical physician’s assistant one day. “Now I know what to study.”

The event, the first ever at South Suburban, was put together by Angela Bray Hedworth, manager of the Center for Learning.

“We really wanted to introduce to the community the different types of careers that are available for future recruiting purposes,” Hedworth said. “There’s more to a hospital than doctors and nurses.”

The mission had two objectives: Introduce kids’ interests to career fields and fill important projected voids.

Right now, she said, there are areas of great need, including operating room and critical care positions. “And no one knows for sure how we will be affected by the retiring Baby Boomers and the Affordable Care Act,” she said.

The students traveled in groups from department to department, following the care of Ashley, a fictional teen whose penchant for texting while driving landed her in the emergency department.

In the ambulance bay, Sean McGuire explained how the ambulance is equipped and what it takes to become an emergency medical technician as well as a paramedic.

In the emergency department, Manager Sue Heslop walked the students through the critical care process.

“Activity in the ER never stops,” she said. “We are constantly doing something.”

Critical care, she said, is where the sickest patients come first.

“Everything has wheels,” Heslop said, “Because we move everything.”

The stop at the X-ray department was particularly interesting to Victoria Rice, a sophomore at Oak Forest High School. “I wanted to check out the ultrasound technology.”

Ed Niemiec, director of imaging, showed the students the different kinds of X-rays, from traditional chest X-rays to nuclear images to color Doppler ultrasound.

Before entering the operating room, the students donned paper jumpsuits, booties and hair nets. Eric Tamulonis, a senior at Andrew, took one for the team when he volunteered to be the patient and was told to lay down on the surgical table.

“My mom’s a peds oncology nurse,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in the medical field, but you never get to see what they do. This is interesting to experience it.”

Arianna Young is a junior at Thornwood. She plans to study nursing in college.

“I’m interested in surgery,” she said. “These kinds of fairs are important because you learn what to expect. They help you make a plan.”

After the tour, the students gathered in a meeting room to chat with professionals in the physical therapy, child care and surgery fields.

Erin Davis, a graduate student in physical therapy from Governors State University, talked with students about the heightened requirements in that field.

“Now you need a doctorate to become a physical therapist,” she said.

Davis, who lives in Steger, began her studies as a biology major. She thought she’d eventually become a zookeeper. But after tending to her sick grandfather, she realized she had a knack for working with the elderly. She plans to pursue that aspect of physical therapy after she graduates next spring.

Realizing your gifts and matching them to potential careers is half the battle. Justin Johnson already has a jump on it.

The sophomore from Homewood-Flossmoor wants to be a social worker, among the essential hospital employees that may not seem obvious to those pondering career fields.

“I like people,” Justin said. “I like to talk to them and help them.”