- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Julia Springfield wants to be a doctor or a nurse when she grows up, just as long as the job doesn’t involve much blood.

The 14-year-old from Reston recently took part in Camp Discovery 2006 at Reston Hospital Center, where participants could explore various health careers.

“To be a nurse, you have to be with the patient the whole time,” Julia says. “It’s a lot more work than you would think it would be.”

Two groups of about 20 campers each spent a week learning about nurses, doctors, physical therapists and other health care professionals. The hands-on camp is for current seventh- and eighth-grade students. It is funded in part by the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. Each camper pays $145.

This is the second year for Camp Discovery, says Kathryn Fay, a critical care nurse at Reston Hospital. She came up with the idea for the camp last year because she wanted to expose her 14-year-old daughter, Madeline, to the health care field.

“When my daughter got here, she loved it,” Mrs. Fay says. “When I first told her about it, she said, ‘Why are you doing this to my summer?’ It’s not as if she had a lot of other plans.”

The shortage of nurses and other health care professionals encouraged the hospital to host the camp, says Cyndee Hochstrasser, director of health and wellness at Reston Hospital.

She plans to follow up with the students after camp to see if they choose professions in health care.

“We have baby boomers that are aging,” Mrs. Hochstrasser says. “We need people to take care of them. The average age of health care workers at this hospital is 46.”

On the first day of camp, participants learned how to suture, how to use a hospital bed, how a pharmacy robot dispenses medication, how to follow a doctor’s orders for intravenous medication, and about the abbreviations used in a hospital.

The next day, the campers visited Northern Virginia Community College’s Medical Education Campus in Springfield, where half of the group talked to police who participated in securing a fake crime scene. The students learned about the role of forensics specialists, emergency medical technicians and nurses during a criminal investigation.

The other half of the group had a lesson in first aid and became certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. At the end of the day, they visited the radiology department, where students saw X-rays of lungs that had been damaged by smoking.

Later in the week, the students returned to the community college to try the activities they had missed on the first visit.

During day three, the class visited the maternal-child health unit at Reston Hospital and learned to give a newborn-size doll a bath. The participants learned how to diaper and swaddle an infant. Maternity nurses explained about the characteristics of a newborn, such as the soft spot on top of their heads. They also visited the labor and delivery room.

Alexa True, 12, of Reston, says she wants to be a labor and delivery nurse when she gets older. She is inspired by her aunt and grandmother, who are nurses.

“I like babies,” Alexa says. “I like playing with them and taking care of them. I think they are cute.”

Later in the day, the campers learned about glucose monitoring, the test for someone’s blood sugar level. Then they practiced giving shots by injecting oranges with saline.

Students also used a laparoscopic simulator to practice techniques used in minimally invasive surgery. The goal was to use the handles to remove gummy worms from the machine. An actual surgical procedure would involve similar hand movements.

“If doctors were looking for a cyst, they might have to move some tissue out of the way, or they might have to cut or cauterize tissue,” says Maripat Sonnhalter, a nurse and assistant director of the operating room.

During the last day of camp, students visited the radiation and oncology ward at Reston Hospital. They made masks similar to those patients would need when undergoing a procedure to treat a tumor. When the patient lays his or her face in the mask, it ensures that the patient will receive radiation treatments at the same place on his or her head each time.

Finally, participants visited the emergency room, where technicians explained to students the dangers of drug overdoses.

“A lot of times, it’s kids their ages or older who end up in the ER with overdoses,” Mrs. Hochstrasser says. “After visiting the ER, I think they were all pretty sure that they didn’t want to fool with drugs.”

Camp Discovery has motivated Cecil Hall, 15, of Winchester to aim be a physical therapist. He attended the camp last year and volunteered to help with this year’s activities. His favorite part of last year’s camp was visiting the morgue and seeing a dead finger floating in water.

“When you try to pursue your goals, go full-blast,” Cecil says. “Don’t do it because of the money because you will be stuck with it for a while.”

This year’s camp has helped Mashal Wakilpoor, 12, of Fair Oaks clarify her medical goals. Her father, Wali Wakilpoor, works at Reston Hospital as a respiratory therapist. Because she is interested in chemistry and biology, she says she and her father regularly discuss how diseases affect cells.

“I really enjoy working with kids,” Mashal says. “Since I want to work in the medicine field, I figured I could combine the two together and be a pediatrician.”

Erik Bailey, 14, of Bristow, Va., is still deciding between becoming a chemist or a paramedic. His mother, Karen Bailey, is an oncology nurse at Reston Hospital.

“When we were studying chemistry in eighth grade, I was really good at it,” Erik says. “A paramedic seems like a fast-paced job. Being a nurse or doctor seems interesting, too.”

Working in medicine is a way to help people, says Miles Le, 13, of Reston. His uncle is a pediatrician, and he is considering a career in medicine.

“It’s good to make people happy,” Miles says. “You should try to get into the medical field. There’s rarely a shortage of need for doctors.”

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