KOKOMO, Ind. – Alexis DeBard leaned in close to her patient’s arm, gently palpitating the vein. Her forehead wrinkled slightly in concentration as she gently slid a tiny needle into the arm, inserting the catheter.
A smile lit up her face, and she breathed out a big “whoosh” of air, realizing she’s successfully started an IV. Then she looked up at Tammy Ledbetter, assistant professor of nursing, for approval.
“I think I just made a nurse out of you,” Ledbetter said, beaming with pride, as she inspected the IV on the virtual patient’s arm.
DeBard, a seventh grader at Taylor Middle School, plans to be a radiographer when she grows up — though she might consider nursing after a successful day at Indiana University Kokomo’s health professions exploration day camp.
“I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed putting in an IV,” she said. “I wanted to learn more about the medical field, to see what there is other than X-rays. I liked doing it hands-on.”
Experiences like this are vitally important, said Ledbetter, who led the camp in the campus nursing simulation center. It was attended by about 20 students over three sessions.
“We expect a huge shortage of nurses and other medical professionals not too far into the future,” she said. “We need kids who are interested in these fields to learn more and decide to choose these careers in college.”
It’s not just about nursing — she noted that one student is interested in engineering, and she talked to him about specializing in biomedical engineering. Ledbetter also discussed careers in physical therapy, radiology, laboratory technology, and dietetics, with information about what education is required, average salary, and job prospects. They also learned and practiced starting IVs, checking blood sugar, and giving shots, among other nursing skills, on virtual patients in the simulation center.
Advising staff also met with the students to talk about how to gain admission to their selected programs.
“This is valuable information, so they can take the classes they need to be prepared to be selected for and succeed in whatever field they choose,” Ledbetter said.
Alannah Smith, who will be a seventh grader at Northwestern Middle School, isn’t sure what she wants to be when she grows up.
“My sister is a nurse, and so I wanted to try it out,” she said. “I really think it’s fun and interesting. Nursing is a possibility for me.”
Like Smith, Kokomo High School freshman Grant Hoagland isn’t decided on his future yet.
“I came here to see if there are any medical careers I might consider,” he said. “I probably want to be an engineer, but this has been fun.”
Reegan Miller is pretty sure she wants to work in physical therapy.
“I think anything that has to do with medicine is cool and interesting,” the Northwestern Middle School seventh grader said. “I liked the physical therapy part, where we got to try out crutches and walkers.”
The health professions exploration day camp is funded with a grant from the American College of Healthcare Executives.
Indiana University Kokomo celebrates 75 years as north central Indiana’s choice for higher education.