By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Youth from all over the Shenandoah Valley are participating in Camp M.E.D II at Warren Memorial Hospital this week, and they're learning more than just how to take a pulse.
Camp M.E.D, which stands for Mentoring Everyone's Dreams, is offered to rising seventh and eighth grade students who show an interest in a health care career. Camp M.E.D. II is offered to graduates of the first program who are rising eighth and ninth graders. Participants shadow medical staff in different areas of the hospital, including the lab, emergency and operating rooms.
In order to be considered for the program, students must fill out an application and explain why they want to attend. The camp is free and sponsored by Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, but can only accommodate up to 15 participants.
The camp is in its ninth year at Warren Memorial Hospital, and Nurse Aide Program Coordinator Terry Shanks said she's seen at least one participant go on to have a health care career.
"We actually recently interviewed someone who had her Camp M.E.D. certificate in her portfolio," Shanks said.
Julie Dellinger, a Nurse Aide Instructor at the hospital, said the program is not just about being a nurse or doctor, but also gives kids a look at engineering and other jobs they might not have thought about.
"We just want to get them thinking about health care," she said. "Even if it means getting these kids familiar and comfortable in a hospital setting, it's important."
This week, the 12 Camp M.E.D. II students checked each others heart beats and breathing, sutured a banana peel, did kickboxing and got a real idea of how it feels to be a person suffering from dementia.
"These kids are at a very teachable age, so we want them to get a look at as many things as possible," Dellinger said. "Sometimes, this camp is helpful in that it lets them know that health care isn't what they want to be involved with."
On Wednesday participants were introduced to "Nursing Anne" a manikin and learning tool that has only been at Warren Memorial Hospital since the beginning of June. Anne is controlled by a touch screen device, that can change her breathing and heart rates. She can also be used to simulate cardiac arrest, and makes noises that indicate abnormal breathing. Students can also learn how to insert an IV.
Participants camp from Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren Counties, among others. Since they completed the first phase of Camp M.E.D. last year, many of them formed friendships and were familiar with Warren Memorial Hospital.
Nathan Pownall, 14, is one of four guys in the program this year, but he wasn't bothered by being outnumbered by girls.
"It doesn't make a difference," he said. "Today's teenage people think differently I guess, but I think it's very much important that guys are involved in health care."
Nathan said he applied to the camp because he's thinking of either being an ER doctor or joining the Marines and trying to become a medic.
"I just want to help people," he said.
Larissa Lamaster, 15, has the same aspiration.
"I know I want to save lives and make a difference," she said. Larissa, who's mom works at Winchester Medical Center, said she's wanted to work in the medical field since she was young. Specifically, she hopes to become a pediatric cardiologist some day.
"I love kids and the heart is just amazing," she said.
Camp M.E.D. is just one of several summer program's offered by Valley Health. Winchester Medical Center, Shenandoah Memorial Hospital and Page Memorial Hospital also offer similar career explorations to a variety of age groups.