January 2001

Students Learn Through Health Adventures

01-01healthadventures Photo

Two firefighters from the Lakewood, Wash., Fire Department demonstrate how to put a collar on an emergency patient. The "patient" is DeMarco King, a seventh-grade student in the Health Adventures program at St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood. Another student, Cyprus Liggens, helps to stabilize DeMarco’s head.

A group of middle school students in Lakewood, Wash., is enjoying the benefits of one-on-one mentoring with caring adults and seeing first-hand how what they learn in school can translate into careers in health care, thanks to a program called Health Adventures.

This is the third year that St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood, part of Franciscan Health System, has participated in Health Adventures, which was developed by the American Society for Directors of Volunteer Services (ASDVS). "Health Adventures is part of St. Clare’s commitment to Lakewood’s Promise, which is this community’s response to the America’s Promise program founded by General Colin Powell," said Reneé Meyer, manager of volunteer services and community integration for St. Clare. "It’s a way to help students connect what they learn in the classroom, especially math and science skills, with real-life career opportunities. In addition, each student is matched with a volunteer adult mentor, so those who may come from single parent households or may have problems with grades or absenteeism can receive help in overcoming those challenges." Another Franciscan Health System hospital, St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way, Wash., is now in the first year of its own Health Adventures program.

At St. Clare, the Health Adventures students meet with their mentors at the hospital one evening a month during the school year. They share a meal, then complete a learning module that focuses on a specific area of the hospital, such as the emergency room, the laboratory or nutritional services. "For example, for our emergency services module, we set up a mock emergency room," said Meyer. "We had members of the Lakewood Fire Department, physicians, nurses and technicians explain the entire process of transporting and treating an emergency room patient. The students see how health care professionals use math and science skills to measure vital signs, calculate blood loss, select and administer medications and perform many other tasks." The ASDVS provides suggestions and guidelines for the learning modules, which each organization can customize according to their strengths and capabilities.

As part of each module, the students discuss what they saw and how they feel about it with their mentors. They also fill out brief reports to document their thoughts and feelings. "Many of the kids are shy at first, but they communicate much more openly with their mentors as the year progresses," said Meyer.

About half of the mentors in St. Clare’s Health Adventures program are hospital employees, and the other half are volunteers from the community. To match mentors with students, St. Clare partnered with the Boys and Girls Club of Pierce County. "We look for students that we believe will benefit most from this program," Meyer said.

This year, St. Clare has become the first hospital in the nation to take Health Adventures to a second level. "We’re now asking our mentors and students for a two-year commitment to the program," said Meyer. "The Lakewood Fire Department and the Lakewood Police Department have agreed to provide the learning modules during the second year. This is a response to requests from many of our mentors and students, who found that they wanted to continue their relationships beyond the first year of the program."