Learning how to insert an IV, take blood pressure, and stitch up skin - sound like the beginning of medical school? Try summer camp. America's doctors are starting younger than ever before, through medical camp programs aimed at young teens, the Associated Press reports. Barbara Brown, vice president of the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association - which helps fund the camps - says 760 mostly middle-school students are going through one- to five-day medical camps at 26 hospitals this summer. The idea is to show kids a wide variety of critical health careers, from nurse-anesthetists to pharmacists to physical therapists.
At left, 14-year-old Lark Nash holds up a donated human eyeball so her lab partner can take a picture.
How do you cut a cornea out of a human eye? Here, campers at Fauquier Hospital's medical camp in northern Virginia listen to Tom Gaile from Old Dominion Eye Foundation as he teaches a crash course on the subject. He uses eyes donated for education to explain the importance of organ and tissue donation. "This is something that's going to stay with them the rest of their lives," Gaile says.
"I never knew there was so much stuff in an eye," says 14-year-old Marquesia Atwater, as she examines an eye's lens. At left, she shows a cornea from a human eye to her lab partner. "I decided my whole life I wanted to be a doctor," Atwater says, a decision the camp cemented.
At the lab, kids learn how to determine blood type. Here, 12-year-old Megan Underwood watches as a technician draws her blood. If a kid's going to get lightheaded, this is where it happens, says Julie Fainter of Fauquier Health, who coordinates the medical camp. She arms kids with peppermints to ward off wooziness.
Think pigs' feet are just used for exotic recipes? Medical campers use pigs' feet - rather than human feet - to practice stitching up cuts. Still, nurse Wendy Greenwood makes sure the kids keep things sterile as if they were working on people. Gloves on, swab the wound with iodine, no scratching your nose, Greenwood says - and watch where you lay the curved needle so no one gets stuck.
Medical camp includes emergency room training. Students participate in what's called a mock code, a resuscitation drill that doctors and nurses perform to fine-tune their own skills. At left, Dr. Greg Wagner instructs teenagers Shyanne Allen (right), Shreyas Garga (left) and Marquesia Atwater (center) in compressions. Each student is assigned an ER job.
And kids have to learn to deal with real dangers too. Paramedics race in a mannequin, a 45-year-old woman in cardiac arrest. All kids spring into action - yet ten minutes later, Wagner asks how long they should keep trying before declaring death. No one volunteers.
"How often do patients pass away?" Lark Nash asks.
Probably once a week, Wagner responds, describing the hardest part of his job. Nurses reveal a body bag lining the bed, and the students zip it over the mannequin.