HANCEVILLE, Ala. — Wearing their own Let’s Pretend Hospital (LPH) T-shirts, Nancy Adams and Allyson Miller looked just like other members of faculty and staff of the Wallace State Community College Department of Nursing Education. When people would ask them questions, Miller said she would answer them, “I don’t know. We’re from Iowa.”
Adams and Miller came all the way from Iowa to observe the Wallace State Nursing program’s annual Let’s Pretend Hospital in hopes of replicating parts of it back home. They work for Genesis Health Systems, Adams as the Educational Outreach Facilitator and Miller as the Coordinator of Volunteer Services. Adams said they were looking to create an outreach program for younger students and heard about something called Let’s Pretend Hospital. When she did a Google search on the term, the first items to pop up were videos of Wallace State’s Let’s Pretend Hospital.
Let’s Pretend Hospital is offered each year to first graders in public and private schools throughout Cullman. The students spend about an hour and half at the “hospital,” going from room to room learning about safety and nutrition, healthy habits, and getting introduced to a hospital environment in such a way that organizers hope it eases some of the students’ anxiety should they ever need to be admitted to the hospital or be in an emergency situation.
Adams said their facility in Davenport, Iowa is looking into creating their own program that along with providing the same community outreach WSCC’s event does, would also provide career exploration opportunities for the participating students and volunteers.
“Our board has challenged us with increase diversity in the workforce, and career education,” Adams said. When they studied the types of community events they currently offer, she said they found a need for programs for students under age 12. The board tasked them with finding a program that would combine career education with tips on healthy lifestyle and disease prevention. That eventually led to the search for Let’s Pretend Hospital, Wallace State and Ann Culpepper, the nursing program’s Coordinator of Clinical Learning and one of the organizers of Let’s Pretend Hospital.
After an exchange of phone calls and emails filled with photographs and information about the Wallace State program, Adams said the idea gained momentum at Genesis and she and Miller were sent to Alabama to see the process in action.
“I love it,” Miller said. “It’s been very fun to see.” She said she was particularly impressed with the enthusiasm everyone shows during the activities. “You can just feel the energy in each room you go into.”
“I think it’s a wonderful gift that the students are giving to their community,” Adams added. “To these little pumpkins that are coming here to learn stuff. They maybe don’t see it as a gift, but it is a gift.”
“Our head is spinning full of ideas,” Adams said of the things they’ve seen at LPH and at the Wallace State facility itself. Adams made special note of the study rooms with whiteboard walls students write on as they study together. She and WSCC instructor Janet Brown brainstormed on ways Genesis can use whiteboard walls to have visiting students write down things they learned at their own event or careers they may want to enter.
“The operation room was very interesting,” Adams said. “There was an anesthesiologist, a circulating nurse, a surgeon.” She liked the idea of having the students introduced to the different types of careers in the medical field.
“We want to incorporate more the career potential aspect into the Let’s Pretend Hospital as well,” Miller said. “Just to create that pipeline and have them start thinking about I could be this or I could be that.”
Miller added that component would benefit not only the students visiting their own Let’s Pretend Hospital, but their volunteers who will act the parts. Their volunteers range in age from 14 to 94, she said, with a number of high school and college students who will work with hospital employees, allowing them to see the evolution of a career in healthcare.
Culpepper said she was pleasantly surprised to have been contacted and asked to help provide some guidance for the Iowa program. “It’s really neat to the think of the networking and the connections so far away,” Culpepper said. “It’s paying it forward. We’re sharing common goals and interests and trying to offer a service.”
Let’s Pretend Hospital at Wallace State has been held almost every year since 2008, with a one-year hiatus during the move to the new facility. The Cullman Area Career Center, the City of Hanceville and Hanceville Fire and Rescue, Children’s of Alabama, Creative Designs, and Cullman Regional Medical Center all provide support to Let’s Pretend Hospital.
For more information about Wallace State Community College, visit www.wallacestate.edu or call 256.352.8000 for the main Hanceville campus or 205.625.4020 for the Oneonta campus.