Nurturing Young Medical Minds

(Photo provided by Alberta Health Services)

Camrose physician, Dr. Christopher Nichol helps junior high students get a glimpse into the world of medicine.

It was so much fun to be a part of this, and the chance to expose kids to the various medical professions and get them interested in medical careers is a great opportunity, both for them and our community.

Seeing the inside of an ambulance or an emergency room is something many people would prefer never to experience. But a dozen Grade eight students from Camrose jumped at the chance to see exactly what medical professionals do to save and improve lives.

Dr. Christopher Nichol, a family physician from Camrose, conceived the Young Medical Minds program as a way to expose students to a variety of medical professions, and hopefully inspire them to consider pursuing medical careers of their own.

“When I was in elementary school, I had a chance to participate in a regional scientific program and it really sparked an interest for me. I wanted to see if we could do the same for students here in Camrose,” says Dr. Nichol.

Dr. Nichol approached Carol Breitkreutz, School Health Promotion, Alberta Health Services, with the idea and together they invited Covenant Health and the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus to get involved too. “Everyone was pretty enthused right from the start,” recalls Dr. Nichol. The group began meeting and planning in early 2015, and by June was ready to begin recruitment at Camrose junior high schools. “People keep telling me it moved really fast and I guess it did,” laughs Dr. Nichol.

A total of 12 students from Charlie Killam and Our Lady of Mount Pleasant schools were invited to attend the five sessions, which ran this past September. Each of the sessions focused on a different health care setting or discipline.

“Our first session used a trauma simulation doll to simulate a skateboarding accident,” explains Dr. Nichol. “We had EMS treat the patient while students watched, and then gave them a chance to practice performing CPR or intubation.”

On the second night students moved into the ER at St. Mary’s Hospital to do assessments, then broke into groups to tackle tasks such as casting a broken wrist and suturing chicken thighs. The third night focused on diagnostic imaging, and the fourth night brought students into a rehabilitation setting to work alongside occupational therapists, physical therapists and psychiatric RNs. The final session took them to the Augustana Campus, where they worked with physiotherapy and nursing students, and tried their hand at injections, taking blood pressure readings and removing surgical staples.

“The feedback from students was excellent,” says Dr. Nichol. “A lot of them actually wanted more sessions.” Dr. Nichol and the other Young Medical Minds group members are already planning for the next session in September 2016 and hope to see it become an annual event. He notes that it’s the kind of program other communities across the province could benefit from as well.

“This gave kids a chance to see and do things they might never have a chance to do otherwise, which was fantastic to see,” says Dr. Nichol. Despite the considerable time commitment, he’s eager to continue leading the program. “It was so much fun to be a part of this, and the chance to expose kids to the various medical professions and get them interested in medical careers is a great opportunity, both for them and our community.”

And don’t be surprised if about a decade from now, Alberta has a bumper crop of physicians coming from the Camrose area.

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