Wednesday, Jul. 23
When you first walk in, you have to do a double take. Are those real people on those hospital beds? And are high school students treating them?
The students labor over medical training dummies. Their chests raise and fall with simulated breath and mimic many other signs of life. They're designed to help train young students who have an interest in a career in medicine. Since 2008, Fauquier Health has held medical camps for high school students at Fauquier Hospital and Lord Fairfax Community College each summer.
“It’s become very popular,” said Julie Fainter the strategic services manger at Fauquier Hospital. “There’s definitely an interest in the community for this kind of hands-on experience for kids to get a sense of whether or not this is something that they want to do.”
There are three camp levels, designed to expose the students to more each year. Each camp lasts two days and costs $50.
“A lot of the other programs that will do this level of training or give this level of experience cost a couple thousand dollars,” said Fainter. “That’s one of the goals we have is to keep it affordable.”
In the level one camp students learn how to suture, intubate, type blood, mix medications, start an intravenous feed, sort patients in triage, take blood pressure and harvest a cornea from a human eye. Students ages 13 and up are eligible for level one.
In the level two camp students broaden their learning with opportunities like applying a cast to their partner’s arm and removing it using a cast saw, extricating a patient from a vehicle using a cervical collar and backboard, practicing injections and phlebotomy, learning to place internal sutures and closing skin incisions using staples. The level two camp is open to students age 14 and up.
The level three camp is usually only open to students who complete the first two levels. In level three, students work on three simulation mannequins that give scenarios that doctors often see in real life. Level three gives more information about the different kinds of careers in medicine that are available and caters to the students’ special interests.
“The first year they all say that they want to be a doctor or a nurse, but then we try to expose them to other options, because there’s so many things outside of that realm that they could do that maybe don’t require as much education or training or is maybe just a better fit for them,” said Fainter.
Since there was such a large interest in the level one camp this year, Fainter said that they had to open up the level three camp to some new students.
“We had an overwhelming response this year to the level one camps. In some of the level three camps, there are kids that are here for the first time, just because we didn’t want to turn anyone away,” she said. “It’s grown a lot really by word of mouth. We were kind of worried that this would happen, just because we don’t want to turn anyone away.”
While there are other similar medical camps in Virginia, students from eight different states applied this year. Even an exchange student from Spain participated in one of the level three camps this summer.
Allison Cree, a rising sophomore at Fauquier High School, has participated in the medical camp for the past three years.
“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor and I thought that it would be a good opportunity to better understand the field that I want to go into,” she said. “It’s definitely a great experience.”
Cree said that she wants to be a pediatrician one day.
“I hope that I can get to the point where I can be the chief of pediatrics,” she said.
Working with the simulation babies was the most helpful to Cree, she said.
“You can understand what it’s like to have an actual patient in front of you, but you’re not going to hurt them,” said Cree.
Cree plans on attending the camp through out her high school career, even though she has already reached the level three camp.
“Some of the kids you can really see that this is their passion,” said Fainter. “It’s neat to hear the stories of some of these kids. Some people become interested in healthcare because they have a medical condition or somebody in their family has.”
Fainter said that many of the students who work their way through the camps volunteer at Fauquier Hospital through out the year. Some even go through training to have careers at the hospital where they first learned about the medical field.
She said that there is a registered nurse (RN) at Fauquier Hospital that went through the medical camps as a teenager and through the hospital’s RN program. There is also a certified nursing assistant and a clinical tech that also went through the medical camps.
“It’s nice to see that kids are going through the program, realizing their goals and they’re coming back and they’re doing it here, which is really the whole point,” said Fainter. “We’re hoping that some doctors that go through the program will come back.”
For more information about Fauquier Health’s medical camps, visit http://www.fauquierhealth.org