Hospital ‘experience’ helps kids

From left, “doctors” Xavier Ayala, Aubree Nunez and Helen James tend to “patient” Lillian Trapp at Mid-Columbia Medical Center’s “Hospital Land,” a hands-on program that helps demystify the hospital experience for children.

A trio of giggling “doctors” administered anesthesia—with one of the doctors hopping in place for good measure—to a “patient” recently at Mid-Columbia Medical Center’s “Hospital Land” for local students.

St. Mary’s Academy first graders were the guests March 12, as they participated in a 90-minute role-playing and storytelling session that aimed to demystify the hospital experience for youngsters.

“Mid-Columbia Medical Center is pleased to present the 11th annual Hospital Land program,” said Dennis Knox, CEO/president of MCMC. “A visit to Hospital Land helps educate children about the hospital experience and decrease fears. We want the children to learn about the hospital experience when they are old enough to understand the program but have not yet formed misconceptions about hospitals.”

MCMC RN Shelby Stroud told the students, “Today we’ll pretend one of the kids will get their tonsils taken out. Does that sound fun?”

“Noooooo,” answered a chorus of kids.

As she described the process, Stroud hit on some upsides of being in the hospital, including having your own TV in the room, your own teddy bear and water bottle, and a bed where both the head and feet could be raised, so they could turn the “patient” into “a taco.”

She said parents get to be with their child at every step of the way, except in the operating room itself.

Students had roles ranging from lab tech to phlebotomist to IV pole wrangler to nurse, doctor, patient and patient’s parents.

Hospital Land, held in the basement of the medical office building next to the hospital, was set up with a hospital bed, gurney, a make-believe admitting area and elevator — the elevator “bell” is a crowd pleaser — and featured various props, including a microscope and a variety of casts and boots.

Stroud said hospitals are open around the clock all year, “even on Christmas Day,” she said. “There’s a lot of people that work in the hospital.”

She said staff who work at night are nocturnal, meaning they sleep during the day and work at night. She asked for examples of animals who are also nocturnal and heard owl, bat and cockroach.

She asked the students why somebody might go to the hospital, and heard things like the flu, or “because your blood cells might not be working right,” one student said.

Another offered, “You might have something like I have. I busted my chin open.”

Stroud said babies are also born at the hospital. “I bet a lot of you were born here.”

She recruited Lillian Trapp to be the patient, and fellow students Carmen Ladkani and Lucas Hutchinson were her parents. Stroud drew a laugh when she presented a baby doll in a carrier to the “mom,” saying it was baby sister.

Stroud had the family drive to the hospital, and asked the “dad” what car he drove. He thought a bit before saying, “a bus.”

Student Wesley Omeg was recruited to draw blood. He was outfitted with a “lab coat” and a hair net. He had to surrender the lab coat when he was done, but the hair net was his. “I get to keep it!” he beamed as he returned to his seat.

Stroud showed some medical equipment, including a bag whose purpose one student correctly guessed was for “if you throw up?”

She displayed a blood pressure cuff, saying they don’t hurt. “It’s like a tight hug on your arm.”

Then she held up a stethoscope and asked if anybody knew what it was. One student ventured, “a telescope.”

“That’s really close,” Stroud said.

She led the class through the motion of taking a breath and holding it for a chest x-ray. As she put a sample x-ray up on a light board, students said, “whoa!”

She asked students how many bones humans have, and got answers ranging from 50 to 5,000. She told them 206. “What about cats? Do you think they have more or less bones than humans?”

Turns out they have 230. “But they’re smaller than us,” a student said.

Then she put up an x-ray that stumped kids. Stroud said it was a dog. “This dog is pregnant with six puppies.” One student reasoned that the dog “has to be a girl.”

Then it was time for the tonsil surgery. “Nurses” were recruited to fetch a gurney and transfer the patient to it from her hospital bed. Then the “doctors” administered anesthesia.

The “tonsils” they removed were put in a cup, but one of the doctors dropped them and had to fetch them from the floor.

Soon it was ready for the family to leave the hospital. Stroud told “dad” to get his license out so he could drive. He pretended to do so, then asked, “Do I have to keep it out?”

Stroud said, “No you can put it back.”

The group was then  allowed to explore the available equipment, and went home with dental gift bags provided by A Kidz Dental Zone.

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