Originally published in The Jamestown Sun, 4/11/13
By: Keith Norman
Photos by John M. Steiner
Students from Edgeley and Kulm elementary schools were given patients to care for Wednesday at Jamestown Regional Medical Center. The students, dressed in scrubs, disinfected the patients and vaccinated them and before performing lab tests.
The patients are not expected to recover.
The goal was not to improve health of the “patients” — oranges, actually — but to build interest for careers in health care.
“The goal is to introduce kids at a young age to the medical professions,” said Kylie Nissen, senior project coordinator for the University of North Dakota Center for Rural Health. “We want them to come back to the rural areas and work down the road.”
The program is called the Rural Collaborative Opportunities for Occupational Learning in Health, abbreviated as “R-COOL-Health.” The program provides grants to hospitals and schools to bring classes to the hospital for a day of hands-on learning.
“A lot of these kids only know about doctors and nurses,” Nissen said. “This expands their knowledge about medicine and all the jobs it entails. PT (physical therapy) is a big attraction especially to those into sports. There is not a single health profession that doesn’t have shortages in North Dakota.”
Nissen said this is the fifth year of the program with 10 grants provided to schools around the state.
The grant provides scrub-like shirts for the students and staff attending and helps cover the costs of syringes and oranges for the hospital demonstrations.
Tony Hanson, administrator of LaMoure County Public Health, said the program was about the future.
“It is about developing careers for the young kids,” he said. “It is a grass roots effort but really the only way we’ll fill our staffing needs in rural health.”
Hanson said the setting and instructions increases the benefit of the program.
“Doing things hands on — like giving a shot to an orange — gives them a chance to experience and learn,” he said.
The program comes at an ideal time in the child’s education, according to Jason Carroll, sixth grade teacher from Edgeley.
“Some of these kids only see a hospital when someone is sick or injured,” he said. “This lets them look at health care from a different perspective. The sixth-grade age is where kids start asking about occupations. Most start out wanting to be a pro athlete but it is a good idea to get them thinking about other professions.”
Some of the students were already sold on the medical field.
Sixth-grader Lucas Nitschke, Jud, N.D., said he was already considering becoming a doctor.
“I enjoy learning about health care,” he said. “Learning about it helps me to see if it’s something I want to do.”
Maren Berntson, a fifth-grader from Kulm, said she enjoyed learning about all the different jobs in healthcare.
“I think I would like physical therapy because it is helping people to recover,” she said.
Abby Wald, a registered nurse with Lamoure County Public Health, said the students were good learners.
“It gives them a glimpse of what we do,” she said. “Maybe it will inspire some people to go into the health field. Besides the orange is a good patient for them to work with.”
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at 701-952-8452 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org