Students trade summer days for hands-on healthcare experience
Where will the next flank of healthcare workers come from? The answer could be summer camp, with a medical twist. Motivated teenage campers are trading hikes, swimming pools and meals around a campfire for IVs, sutures and cervical collars at an innovative medical camp sponsored by Fauquier Hospital, Warrenton, Va.
Hands-on experience and insight into medical careers provide hefty incentive for participants, who must apply and compete with students from across the country for acceptance. This year’s group is drawn from Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. Camp sessions at Fauquier, typically two days each, provide student campers with instruction in skills essential to patient care, such as starting an IV, mixing medications, suturing wounds and more.
Now in its ninth year, the camp is divided into two levels of participation for campers, age 13 to 18. First-time campers attend the Level 1 medical camp, learning skills like typing blood in the lab, intubating a patient, suturing, starting an IV, mixing medications in the pharmacy, and seeing how X-rays are performed. Students also participate in a mock code in the emergency department, and learn how to triage patients, take blood pressure readings, and harvest a cornea from a human eye.
Level 2 medical camp activities include all of the following on the first day: applying a cast to their partner’s arm (and cutting the cast off using the cast saw), placing internal sutures and closing skin incisions with staples, and extricating a patient from a vehicle using a cervical collar and backboard. On the second day, students learn to do injections and blood draws, and precipitate their DNA from a cheek swab. Students must have participated in a Level 1 camp in a prior year to be eligible for the Level 2 camp.
Physician assistants from the hospital have been integral to the undertaking, providing instruction in what has become the perennial favorite class – simple interrupted sutures. (This year’s PA participants are Michele R. Glowicki, PA-C; Elizabeth F. McLean, PA-C; Kelley A. Schimler, PA-C; Jenna A. Pataluna, PA-C; and Kristyn J. Hollenback, PA-C).
What Campers Say
Reactions from this year’s participants and their families have been swift and affirmative. “I loved the medical camp very much, I believe I’ve found my passion in life,” said camper Erica Champion of Gainesville, Va. “I was considering a career in nursing, but now I believe becoming a PA or emergency physician is more up my alley.”
Fellow camper Olivia Coble of Marshall, Va., said the camp “… has been an absolutely phenomenal experience that I will carry with me and that has definitely impacted my future in the medical field. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that (literally) five minutes after the camp ended on the second day, I visited a podiatrist at the Fauquier Hospital and arranged an internship to further my exposure to the medical environment.”
One parent, anonymously responding to a camp survey, noted, “It was beyond words amazing. My daughter has not stopped talking about it.” Another wrote, “If I could use a word to describe my son’s experience it would be ‘transformational.’ He definitely wants to go into the medical field; this confirmed it for him and for us to believe in his passion.”
Youth medical camps are proliferating across the country, partially in response to shortage projections, but also as a way to identify young talent. PrepScholar.com offers a quick look at 59 medical programs offered in 2016 for high school students, running the gamut from camp experience with hands-on instruction similar to Fauquier’s, to medical “immersion” experiences, medical internships and medical science programs. Furthermore, an expansive number of research programs are open to young scholars. For example, the Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center in Boston invited students to participate in its Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE) program. And the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, offers Biomedical Research Training for High School Students.
Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta holds its arms open for young medical professionals-of-the-future with its Disease Detective Camp. According to the CDC, “Topics vary year to year, but may include: public health interventions, global health, infectious disease, chronic disease, injury prevention, data analysis, surveys, school wellness programs, violence prevention, environmental health, emergency preparedness, outbreaks, scientific communication, laboratory technology, disease surveillance, epidemiology, and public health law. Camp is a fast paced, academically demanding program.”
PrepScholar also reports that there is a broad selection of programs aimed at diversity enrichment, minority students or underrepresented persons available throughout the country at various hospitals, institutes, colleges/universities or medical associations.
According to information provided by Fauquier Hospital, helping to launch students into further medical education and medical careers has become the legacy of the camp. Former campers are now enrolled in medical school, nursing school and exploring other healthcare careers. Clearly, there’s more to the lazy, hazy days of summer than trips to the beach or ballpark.
Providing inquisitive youth with passage to a valuable healthcare experience is not only an introduction to important career education, but a positive step toward growing the ranks of future providers as well. The proof is in the pudding: One former Fauquier camper is now a member of the facility’s team of nurses.