A dozen high school students in red scrubs sat around a table in Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital on Thursday morning, all eyes on physician's assistant Ryan Dadds as she demonstrated how to properly suture a wound on a raw chicken leg. Some looked on with fascination, others with apprehension. Once Dadds was done with the "wound" on her chicken leg, the students took their own stab at it.
These students are campers at Students Can Really Use Bedside Skills (SCRUBS) Camp, a program designed to teach teens basic medical skills in a hands-on setting and introduce them to a wide range of careers in health at Roper St. Francis hospitals. After a week of instruction and mentorship from Roper St. Francis employees, the students, age 13 to 16, have their sights set on careers across the medical spectrum, including pediatrics, oncology and psychiatry.
Instead of simply observing doctors' procedures and listening to presentations, students work on mannequins, cuts of meat and pieces of fruit, simulating everything from emergency medicine to surgery. On Thursday, students vaccinated an orange, cut open a piece of liver in the operating room and drilled into a mannequin infant's shin.
"We don't even learn surgery in nursing school," said Joan Perry, a former labor and delivery nurse and Bon Secours St. Francis' director of volunteers. "In school, we used to have to practice giving vaccines on each other."
Perry started the SCRUBS camp in 2007, after the successful SCRUBS mentoring program, in which students shadow nurses, had been running for four years. Sessions run at Bon Secours St. Francis and Roper Hospital. There are few like it in the country, she said, and most are in medical school and university settings instead of hospitals like Bon Secours St. Francis.
The program is designed for high school students interested in a medical career. Students are required to submit an essay and a teacher's recommendation in order to be accepted.
"This is not just parents finding something for their kids to do during the summer," Perry said. "These kids want to learn. They're excited about it." Many of the students at SCRUBS have always been interested in medicine. Danielle Wright, 14, enjoyed tagging along with her mother, an OB/GYN, to work when she was younger. Now, she's hoping to be a psychologist or a registered nurse.
"I love working with people and seeing them get better," Wright said.
Dadds, who works in Bon Secours St. Francis' emergency room and general surgery department, has been with the SCRUBS camp as a volunteer instructor for two years. She teaches the students how to suture "wounded" chicken legs and vaccinate oranges, which she told students are similar to a deltoid or gluteus muscle, where patients usually get shots.
"It's really fun to see their eyes light up when they get it," Dadds said.
Before becoming a physician's assistant, Dadds was a radiology technician. She didn't receive the type of hands-on instruction the SCRUBS campers get until physician's assistant school. Before entering medicine, she thought she wanted to work with plants and animals.
"I wish I would have had this opportunity when I was younger," Dadds said. "If I had seen this, I would have known I wanted to work with people."
On Friday, the campers "graduated" from the program with CPR and first aid certification. "It makes you feel good about the future of health care," Perry said.