1st graders learn about medical matters at Wallace State’s ‘Let’s Pretend Hospital’

W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune

Kids learn about the importance of handwashing in the “Germ Room.” (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

HANCEVILLE – This week, Wallace State Community College’s (WSCC) approximately 450 nursing students took time off from class to become teachers, introducing first graders from across the county to various medical and personal safety matters through the “Let’s Pretend Hospital.”  In and around the Nursing School simulation center, kids got to see friendly and fun versions of an emergency room, operating room, patient room, x-ray lab and ambulance and learned how to keep themselves healthy and safe.

The rearrangement of school schedules due to Tuesday morning’s storms led to a cancellation of the children’s visits that day, but Nursing School staff and students had a full house on Monday and Wednesday.  Nursing students took the storm in stride, using Tuesday to go through the Pretend Hospital themselves.

Deborah “Pepper” Hoover, WSCC Nursing Department program director, explained the purpose of the Let’s Pretend Hospital:

“It tries to demystify the whole hospital experience and help (children) to understand what a patient room is like, what an x-ray is in case they have to have an x-ray, or if they have to come to the emergency room, or if they have to go to the operating room.

“But, woven into that is also safety tips to try to keep them healthy, to prevent them from coming to the hospital.  In other words, the hungry caterpillar or the healthy nutrition talks about food choices to help them stay healthy. And the safety room is what we’re probably the most proud of; that talks about bike safety, wearing helmets, and it talks about sun safety and also talks about seat belt safety, so these students will kind of operationalize in their lives what to do in an emergency.  

“In other words, there’s a firehouse to do the stop, drop and roll, and they’ve practiced that.  We’ve actually had feedback that a grandmother said her grandson was in a fire and he brought that back; he could remember the stop, drop and roll to get out when his house was on fire, when he was in that situation.

“So we hope to save lives and prevent injuries, so they don’t have to come to the hospital, but if they do have to come, we hope that they will understand that it’s not such a scary place.

“And then again, of course, we’re exposing them to nurses early on, and they can see what nursing students look like and understand that nurses come in all different shapes and sizes and genders and ages, so that they might want to consider being a healthcare professional in the future.”

“The (nursing) students–this is designed to help them design age-appropriate educational activities, so that they learn to communicate to a first grader, how do you actually interact with a first grader and communicate health safety.  It also, for our students, is a huge opportunity to learn teamwork and collaboration because, to make this work, there’s a lot of moving parts, and they have to learn how to cooperate with each other. And leaders come out during this time, and they learn a little bit about negotiation skills.  So it’s all about teamwork, collaboration, setting priorities and being responsible for their little piece and attitude. And that’s what I told them this morning: attitude is everything.”

Heather Ashley, project coordinator for Let’s Pretend Hospital, shared that the program benefits both nursing students and the children who visit, saying:

“This is a learning opportunity for our nursing students, first off, because they get to have a pediatric experience with the first graders, interacting with them and teaching them that the hospital isn’t scary, and just things like hand-washing.  And then, also, we get to like do a service activity for the community: all the county schools, city schools and private schools of Cullman. First graders come, and they get to learn that the hospital isn’t scary, how to wash their hands, just things that they might not get in school that they might need.

“I think it’s a great thing for the community, just so the community knows that we’re here.  We’re here to make great nurses, yes, but we also want to do a good service to our community.  We love our community, get lots of students from them, and just to know that we’re reaching out to them and want to not just get good nurses, but also help the community out, too.”

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