Area students study health care career options

By Josette Keelor

WOODSTOCK — When the new school year begins later this month, some students in Shenandoah and Warren counties will have more than the usual summer vacation stories to tell their friends and teachers.

They might tell of learning to save a choking victim, splinting an injured limb, practicing non-invasive surgery and building their own first aid kits. They’ll also talk of the world of options available to them should they choose a career in health care.

At Medical Career Investigation at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital in Woodstock and Camp MED II at Warren Memorial Hospital in Front Royal, school children will gain a better idea of how hospitals work and learn that not all health care jobs require scrubs, sutures or a medical degree.

The Shenandoah County program for rising sixth through ninth graders has two sessions, this week and next, and the Warren County program this week for rising eighth through 12th graders is a follow-up to the 11th annual Camp MED I, which took place earlier this summer.

In Woodstock this week, students learned how hand washing helps prevent the spread of disease, talked with occupational and speech therapists in the rehab department, learned cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and how to save a choking victim by using the Heimlich maneuver, and participated in the dissection of an eye with a representative from the Old Dominion Eye Foundation

The human eye was donated for education and research, said Melissa Stalbird, manager of education at the hospital, who has led the program for five of its seven years.

“We do a post survey, and a lot of the kids say that’s one of the neatest things they’ve learned,” she said.

Later in the week, they planned to run a mock code, a student from each group acting as a patient while others splint an arm or leg of choice.

Stalbird also expected representatives from the Virginia Blood Foundation, Air Care unit and Valley Medical Transport to visit this week, and a healthy food class and laparoscopic game in the operating room to keep students busy today.

Like a video game, the laparoscopic lesson teaches students to use surgical equipment by letting one work a camera while another uses graspers to pull foam pieces out of a box.

Laparoscopy, a non-invasive way of doing surgery, was one of 13-year-old Ashley Funkhouser’s favorite parts of last year’s program, which she’s repeating this year.

“I’m pretty sure I want to be in the medical field, but I’m not sure,” she said. The Edinburg resident said she took the course again to remind herself of what she learned last year.

Fellow Central High School rising ninth grader Skylar Robinson of Woodstock has been thinking about working in pathology, and said her favorite part so far was learning about the rehab department and seeing how patients get back into shape after surgery.

“It actually makes me want to be in the medical field more than I did,” she said.

Paid for by a grant Stalbird pursues each year, the program taught 10 students this week and will continue with a second group of 12 students next week. Part of the goal is changing inaccurate perceptions of hospitals being a scary place.

Front Royal’s Camp MED II includes yoga, water safety and a demo of a car accident caused by driving while texting and allows students to shadow professionals in various medical departments, said LeAnn Albert, education assistant in the Nurse Aid Training Program at Warren Memorial Hospital.

They also chose from engineering, safety and security and environmental services — the hospital cleaning service which provides linens to hospital rooms.

Albert said the experience teaches students a broader definition of what it means to work in health care and even inspired one student who was thinking about studying a career in the operating room to consider mechanical work instead.

Camp Med II hosted 15 students this week, from Warren and Loudoun counties and even Richmond and Williamsburg. Two from New Jersey, visiting family in Front Royal, signed up with their cousin.

Still deciding whether or not health care is for him, 12-year-old Kyle O’Neill of Toms Brook said he’s sure about one thing: “I’m probably not going to do surgery and stuff, cause that doesn’t seem like my kind of thing.”

“I like science,” he said. “Math not so much but, you know, you got to do what you got to do.”

For information about the camp in Woodstock, call 540-459-1220 or visit http://www.valleyhealthlink.com/mcis. For information about Camp MED I or II, call 540-636-0531 or visit www.valleyhealthlink.com/campmed

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com>