Kids going into sixth through eighth grade got hands-on experience with different careers in the hospital or health care world at the Health Exploration Camp last week on July 22 and 23. 

Starting early Monday morning, the Troy Police Department, Lincoln County Ambulance District and the Lincoln County Fire Protection District brought their vehicles out to stage a “mock crash,” to showcase the perils of texting and driving. 

Camp students were able to role-play as police, EMT or even victims, and they got to handle actual equipment used by the different agencies. Instead of simply describing their job, professional first responders were able to walk the students through how they would respond in the situation, with police pointing out investigative pieces, paramedics pulling out the moving stretcher and strapping in students pretending to be victims, and firefighters demonstrating how to use the jaws of life apparatus on a car donated by S&R Towing LLC.

“We want the kids to know that there’s a lot of different levels within, and that’s kind of what this camp is all about,” said Ann Reisinger, who played a role in organizing the crash and other activities for the camp. “We felt this is a good start to kind of give them a good hands-on way to learn what everyone would do. And everybody here is explaining it to the kids, and the kids are paired up and they do whatever whoever they’re paired up with, and we have some kids that are accident victims.”

“It’s fun and enjoyable,” Troy police officer Jordan Richards said about volunteering at the event. “We can reach the community and show how our job works. We teach them what’s going on with an accident, and show that police officers don’t just focus on bad or negative things, we do good things and save lives also.”

Lori Sprick, a Lincoln County paramedic, shared that while showing little kids vehicles and sirens can be fun, she likes working with a middle-school age group because they’re already thinking about future careers, and this camp gives them a chance to see options for them in the health care world. 

“It gives them a realistic view of what they’re getting into that they might not get other ways.” Sprick said.

The mock crash was just the beginning of two days packed full of hands-on activities. During Monday afternoon, kids split into three groups to learn about their blood type, listen to a Troy high school teacher talk about forensic science and even dissected a pig heart under the guidance of a cardiologist. On Tuesday, the highway patrol brought out their water patrol boat to talk with the kids, they learned CPR and in the afternoon they practiced stitching on pig feet, in addition to learning more about their blood types and prepared a meal with the help of the Mercy Hospital dietician.  

During lunch on both days, hospital professionals – those not as closely related to clinical hands-on work – came to talk to the kids about their job, including a local family medicine provider and an ICU nurse. 

“We kind of chose co-workers who weren’t as highly represented in the activities, so that kids could understand that for a hospital to operate, or in health care, there are all kinds of facets, all kinds of career opportunities, and people who work together to make a hospital run,” said Ashley Rottler, the hospital’s community engagement manager who worked on many of the registration and logistical details of the camp.

“So really it’s letting the kids explore healthcare opportunities but also knowing that it takes several professions to operate a hospital.” Rottler added. “It all goes back to serving one another, so everyone here really just provides service, compassion and care to everyone who enters the building.” 

Several of the students gave comments on how they felt about the camp, with several saying they had an interest in the careers they saw.

“Originally I wanted to be a teacher, but when me and my partner did the heart dissection, I said ‘yup, this is what I want to do every day, forever,’” student Emily Hudson shared, going on to specify that she now wants to be a Cardiothoracic surgeon. She and her partner ended up dissecting three pigs hearts, Hudson commenting that, “Hey, they [the pigs] weren’t using them.” 

When asked what she enjoyed most about the camp thus far, student Hannah Anderson shared how she had a new perspective of the healthcare world.

It’s very interesting, I just thought a hospital was just, someone broke their arm, fix it, done, but it’s more than that,” Anderson said. “It’s just been really cool seeing all the different opportunities. It’s more than just stitches and scalpels.”

Anderson said she was definitely having more fun than she thought she would.

 “I just kinda came to see what it was, see what it was like, and then I found out they had Chick-fil-A,” Anderson said. “It’s well worth waking up at seven in the morning to come.”

Bella Skibinski said it was cool to see how all the different parts of a hospital come together to make people function in the world and generally keep people alive. She also enjoyed the hands-on activities.

“I really liked, I mean I already knew my blood type, but getting to test that was really cool,” Skibinski said, “And then also the x-rays and radiology, I found that really cool. Just getting to see all the different breaks and how they would fix that, and stuff like that.”

In past years, the hospital paired with the North Eastern Missouri AHEC organization to put on the annual M*A*S*H camp, but this year the organization decided to work with four other rural areas to promote health care in those regions. However, Mercy Hospital Lincoln decided the program was too popular to not do anything, so they organized this year’s camp on their own.

“We said we don’t want to not have this experience available for our community, so we’re going to make sure it happens, which is why we decided to move forward,” Rottler said. She said that one of the organizers of the camp attended a baseball game for a grandson on Monday night, and while sitting in the stands she was able to hear some of the kids who attended the camp talking about it to relatives during the game.

“It’s really nice to hear because you feel like your doing this for the kids in your community, and hoping someday that they’ll want to come back here and work for the hospital or work in health care,” Rottler said.


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