Camryn Letcher placed the stethoscope on the rubbery surface and listened. “I heard a heartbeat,” the Hudson High School freshman said. “It was really weird because it felt like it was alive, like I was listening to a real person.”
The patient simulators at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) in River Falls bring to life realistic vital signs and symptoms. For Letcher, the experience was closer than she had ever been to real patient care in a clinical setting. “I’m thinking of being a pediatric nurse,” she said.
The trip to CVTC was part of the Hudson High School Healthcare Discovery Day, which also included visits to Hudson Hospital and Catalyst Sports Medicine in Hudson.
Forty-one Hudson freshmen took part in the day-long event. At CVTC, in addition to checking out vital signs on the adult and infant patient simulators, the students learned how to use a hypodermic needle by practicing on an orange, tried on neck braces, tried out various medical testing devices and talked with faculty about careers in healthcare.
“They seemed very engaged,” said CVTC Nursing Instructor Renee Christensen, R.N. “Simulation is very exciting for this age group, and they asked good questions.”
“The purpose of the event is to provide students with the opportunity to explore healthcare careers, to understand what career ladders are, and to see how they can bring value to the community,” said Melisa Hansen, school-to-careers coordinator at Hudson High School.
Healthcare Discovery Day was made possible by a $2,500 grant from the nonprofit Northwest Area Health Education Sector. Students registered for the event.
“They were asked why they wanted to come, and a lot of them already had their eyes on high-level health care careers,” said Hansen. Others just wanted to explore. They got a good taste of it during the three on-site visits.
Christensen showed the students a video of a full-scale emergency room scenario in which students interacted with professionals in a mock response to victims from an auto accident coming in for treatment. Patient simulators and even live actors were used to depict various conditions in the fast-paced environment.
“That is really good experience for students,” Christensen said of the video scenario. “Sometimes they make mistakes, and sometimes we allow them to make mistakes, because it’s not going to hurt anyone. They’ll probably never make that mistake again.
“I’ve had students get really involved in the simulations, and cry when a (simulated) baby comes in,” Christensen continued.
The students found their experiences with the simulators and the information on the training involved in healthcare careers much more interesting than what they usually experience in a high school classroom.
“I’m thinking about being a physical therapist,” said Braxton Belt. “I really liked the simulators. We listened to the heart and lungs.”
“It’s really interesting to see how it’s done in the real world,” said Logan Nelson, who is considering a career in sports medicine.
Students like Nelson and Kyla Schewe, who is also considering a sports medicine career, had the opportunity to see the profession up close in a visit to Catalyst Sports Medicine that afternoon, where they viewed the treatment of a simulated injury.
At Hudson Hospital, ninth-graders learned about an array of healthcare careers with educational and hands-on learning opportunities. Sarah Stockman, manager, laboratory, Hudson Hospital & Clinics, is the hospital representative on the healthcare advisory council. Her role is to partner with the council to offer educational experiences for students that are leaning towards a career in healthcare.
“It’s great to get a chance to help our high school students discover all the career options that are available to them in the healthcare field. We hope to inspire them to continue their education and become healthcare professionals,” said Stockman.
Students learned about various healthcare careers from hospital staff including lab, dietary, Birth Center and Surgery & Procedure Center. They also toured the Emergency Center, Imaging Center and Rehabilitation Center Physical Therapy.
At the hospital, they also watched the simulated resuscitation of a choking baby, met with a dietician and observed lab work, among other activities.
“We wanted them to see that healthcare is a profession in which they need 21st century skills, like problem solving, team building and critical thinking,” Hansen said. “This experience provided relevance. They follow the routine at school, and they didn’t have an understanding of what goes on outside of school.”
Hansen added that the Healthcare Discovery Day was a teambuilding exercise for the students. “They were learning together today. There’s power in that.”
In planning the day, Hudson High School staff worked with a community advisory council of professionals in healthcare and education. Hansen said they are very appreciative of the help of the council members, as well as the cooperation of Catalyst Sports Medicine, Hudson Hospital and CVTC.
“The people here are absolutely amazing and I applaud them,” she said.
The grant was only able to fund this year’s event, with any leftover funds being used for healthcare career exploration. To continue the program on an annual basis, either additional grants or school district funding will be needed, Hansen said.