River Falls, WI – Camryn Letcher placed the stethoscope on the rubbery surface and listened. “I heard a heartbeat,” the Hudson High School freshman said. “It was really weird because it felt like it was alive, like I was listening to a real person.”
The patient simulators at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) in River Falls bring to life realistic vital signs and symptoms. For Letcher, the experience was closer than she had ever been to real patient care in a clinical setting. “I’m thinking of being a pediatric nurse,” she said.
The trip to CVTC was part of the Hudson High School Healthcare Discovery Day. Forty-one Hudson freshmen took part in the day-long event. At CVTC, in addition to checking out vital signs on the adult and infant patient simulators, the students learned how to use a hypodermic needle by practicing on an orange, tried on neck braces, tried out various medical testing devices, and talked with faculty about careers in healthcare.
“They seemed very engaged,” said CVTC Nursing Instructor Renee Christensen, R.N. “Simulation is very exciting for this age group, and they asked good questions.”
“The purpose of the event is to provide students with the opportunity to explore healthcare careers, to understand what career ladders are, and to see how they can bring value to the community,” said Melisa Hansen, school-to-careers coordinator at Hudson High School.
Healthcare Discovery Day was made possible by a $2,500 grant from the nonprofit Northwest Area Health Education Sector. Students registered for the event.
“They were asked why they wanted to come, and a lot of them already had their eyes on high-level health care careers,” said Hansen. Others just wanted to explore. They got a good taste of it during the three on-site visits.
Christensen showed the students a video of a full-scale emergency room scenario in which students interacted with professionals in a mock response to victims from an auto accident coming in for treatment. Patient simulators and even live actors were used to depict various conditions in the fast-paced environment.
“That is really good experience for students,” Christensen said of the video scenario. “Sometimes they make mistakes, and sometimes we allow them to make mistakes, because it’s not going to hurt anyone. They’ll probably never make that mistake again.
“I’ve had students get really involved in the simulations, and cry when a (simulated) baby comes in,” Christensen continued.
The students found their experiences with the simulators and the information on the training involved in healthcare careers much more interesting than what they usually experience in a high school classroom.
“I’m thinking about being a physical therapist,” said Braxton Belt. “I really liked the simulators. We listened to the heart and lungs.”
“It’s really interesting to see how it’s done in the real world,” said Logan Nelson, who is considering a career in sports medicine.
“We wanted them to see that healthcare is a profession in which they need 21st Century skills, like problem solving, team building and critical thinking,” Hansen said. “This experience provided relevance. They follow the routine at school, and they didn’t have an understanding of what goes on outside of school.”
Hansen added that the Healthcare Discovery Day was a teambuilding exercise for the students. “They were learning together today. There’s power in that.”
In planning the day, Hudson High School staff worked with a community advisory council of professionals in healthcare and education. Hansen said they are very appreciative of the help of the council members, as well as the cooperation of Catalyst Sports Medicine, Hudson Hospital, and CVTC.
“The people here are absolutely amazing and I applaud them,” she said.