Under the watchful eye of Krista Heen, Marshall Nelson wrapped a blood pressure cuff around the arm of Alison Brode Calberg.
Nelson squeezed the bulb to inflate the cuff while Heen gave him step-by-step directions. He wore a look of concentration as he listened for a heart beat.
Nelson and Calberg, both from Bowbells, were among about 220 seventh-graders at Williston State College Wednesday for Scrubs Camp. The daylong event, which is now in its fifth year, helps middle school students learn about possible careers in health care.
“It was our biggest one so far,” Melissa Meyer with the Great Northwest Education Cooperative said of the attendance.
Students from the northwest corner of the state can sign up and attendees came from Crosby, Stanley, Powers Lake, Ray and Williston, among other districts.
The camp is funded by a grant from the Rural Collaborative Opportunities for Occupational Learning in Health, as well as the Center for Rural Health at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences and the North Dakota Area Health Education Centers.
Presenters at each of the 13 stations spoke about their education and career path before having students take part in a hands-on activity. The goal, Meyer said, was to have students who might be interested in a career in health care get a better understanding of what they’ll need to study in high school and college.
The hands-on activities were a way for students to get involved and get excited about what they were learning about.
At Heen’s station, she walked 20 or so students through what the numbers in blood pressure readings stood for and how they were measured. She even gave them a trick for remembering what order the numbers go in.
Blood pressure readings are made up of the systolic number, which is how much pressure the heart exerts when it contracts, and the diastolic number, which is its pressure at rest. Heen said she remembers which goes first by thinking of the name of a neighboring state — South Dakota. In blood pressure, as in our southern neighbor’s name, the word that starts with “s” goes ahead of the word that starts with “d.”
As Nelson started to take Calberg’s blood pressure, Heen watched and offered advice.
“Pump it up more,” she said, telling him that aiming to pump the cuff until the gauge read 150 was a good start.
“Now let it out slowly,” Heen told him.
She said to listen carefully for a heart beat.
“You hear it?” she asked.
Nelson said he did.
“Good!” she said.
There’s an increasing need for a variety of health care professions, with a projected shortage of more than 124,000 physicians and 500,000 nurses nationwide by 2025.
“Research has shown that growing your own is an effective way of meeting rural health care workforce needs,” said Lynette Dickson, associate director at the Center for Rural Health. “These camps are great examples of how community organizations can work collaboratively to inspire local youth to pursue careers in healthcare.”
Students learned about more than blood pressure. Flight nurses and a pilot with Valley Med’s helicopter air ambulance were on hand, as were physical therapists, dietitians, speech pathologists and others.
At the dentistry station, Christina O’Neill showed students how to mix a mold-making material to make an impression of teeth. Impressions are used for a wide variety of dental procedures, from fitting a patient for braces to creating crowns.
“For our hands-on activity, we wanted to have them do something most of them have had done to them,” O’Neill, a registered dental hygienist, said.