Giving stitches to a store-bought chicken breast with a “laceration,” becoming CPR certified and learning how to wrap a fake bone in a cast are just some of the activities high schoolers experienced during their time with WWAMI High School Healthcare Careers camp this week.
Eleventh- and 12th-grade students from around Wyoming and even the Colorado Front Range participated in the week-long camp, giving the 43 students an opportunity to learn about the various medical professions, from optometry to nursing, respiratory therapy to emergency medical technicians.
Marivern Easton, assistant director of the University of Wyoming’s WWAMI Medical Education program, said the need for medical professionals is increasing as the largest generation, the baby boomers, gets older and needs more health care — both in Wyoming and nationwide.
“There’s such a variety of health-related careers, all of them in desperate need of more students applying to the programs,” Easton said. “Additionally, those (baby boomer) folks are retiring. ... so there will be jobs opening up.”
The week included visits to various health professionals and their work environments, including time at Ivinson Memorial Hospital where students split into groups for hands-on learning in stations covering different medical areas within the hospital, from exploring surgery on a steak to practicing administering vaccinations to hot dogs.
“(The Camp) is something that we have been part of for a number of years,” said Ivan Olson, education coordinator at IMH. “We’re involved because it’s part of helping the community; it’s part of fostering these dreams and young minds where they have interests in different health care professions.”
While some students already know exactly what field they want to pursue, others are still exploring, Easton said. The group is asked to keep an open mind when considering all the professions, even the ones they don’t expect to pursue as a career since medical professionals often work together.
“The health care field has so many different professionals and so many career paths within it and we wanted to get a sampling of that,” Olson said. “There are many different people who apply their skills to help the healing of our patients and it really takes that team effort.”
Although sponsored in part by IMH, the camp is hosted by the University of Wyoming’s WWAMI Medical Education program, a medical school option for students from each state in the acronym (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho).
Although in previous years the camp was funded by a federal grant to the Area Health Education Center, changes in the grant funding by the federal government this year made the grant unavailable. This year’s program was funded by the Wyoming State Office of Rural Health. Easton said the students pay a fraction of the cost to put on the camp, and scholarships are available for those who can’t pay the $150 camp fee.
The camp also gives them the opportunity to learn more about the University of Wyoming and community colleges in their areas, as well as the WWAMI program. They stayed in UW dorms and ate at the Washakie dining center during the camp and looked at what classes, degree paths and test scores would potentially be needed for the different professions.
“We’re also exposing them to what it’s like to live on campus, what it’s like to live in Laramie,” Easton said. “For some students, coming to Laramie is coming to the big city, so there’s nervousness; the kids might be nervous, the parents might be nervous letting their kids come, so hopefully, we can give them a good experience.”
Other sponsors include the UW College of Health Sciences, Snowy Range Vision Center and the Donor Alliance.