Reprinted with permission by The Cullman Times

Tyler Hanes
The Cullman Times

Wallace State nursing students and Cullman County first-graders all got a chance for a unique learning experience this week by visiting and working in a pretend hospital.

More than 1,000 first-graders from every public and private school in Cullman County have visited Wallace State Community College’s Let’s Pretend Hospital over the last few days, marking the 10th time that the college has hosted the student learning experience.

Sacred Heart first-grader Silas Krische tries on a life jacket in the Let's Pretend Hospital's safety room. Tyler Hanes/The Cullman Times

Sacred Heart first-grader Silas Krische tries on a life jacket in the Let’s Pretend Hospital’s safety room.
Tyler Hanes/The Cullman Times

Using characters and themes from children’s’ media like Dr. Seuss, Doc McStuffins and Frozen, Wallace nursing students manned several stations that taught the first-graders what it’s like to visit the hospital and let the college students get more experience with working with children.

Many of the stations are designed to demystify the hospital environment so the children aren’t scared in the case that they ever have to visit a real one, Wallace State Director of Nursing Deborah Hoover said.

The stations included a hand washing room, which let them learn about the importance of washing their hands and the how germs that can make them sick, and a patient room, in which they were able to see one of their fellow students get pretend examinations. 

In the hospital’s operating room, the first-graders tried on surgical masks and saw a pretend operation on one of their classrooms, and in the X-ray room, Frozen’s Elsa, Anna and Oleg taught the first-graders what to eat to keep their bones strong and healthy. 

They were also able to get pretend X-rays and see images from real ones to demonstrate how they should’t be scared of the machines. 

Wallace’s new ambulance simulator was also a station for the children, and they got to take a look inside and speak with some of the college’s EMT students in an attempt to familiarize them with an ambulance. 

The Hanceville Fire Department also provided a fire truck for the event, and firefighters showed off their suits to make sure that first-graders aren’t afraid of their suits in the event of a fire. 

One of the rooms that is particularly important for young children is the pretend hospital’s safety room, Hoover said. 

“That’s the one that we’re probably most proud of,” she said. 

The room showed them the importance in wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle, life jackets while in the water and seat belts while in the car. Other lessons included a stop, drop and roll fire drill and a demonstration of how easy it is to confuse candy and pills. 

The first graders come to the Let’s Pretend Hospital to learn, but the nursing students also make sure that they have fun as well, and the response from the students is always great, Hoover said. 

“They rate it as very entertaining,” she said. 

When the first graders go into the different stations, they also get to meet many of Wallace’s nursing students, and can see that nurses can come in all shapes and sizes, Hoover said. 

“Ideally, they come away with a positive image,” she said. 

Susan Kraft, a first grade teacher at Sacred Heart School, said she has brought her students to the Let’s Pretend Hospital for the last eight years, and the students always come away with new knowledge. 

“They learn important health and safety issues,” she said. 

Kraft said a fifth-grade student recently told her that the Let’s Pretend Hospital was his favorite field trip that he has taken as a student, and she agrees that it is a great trip for her students. 

“I think it’s one of the best field trips I’ve ever been on,” she said. 

The Wallace State Department of Nursing Education is a Center of Excellence according to the National League For Nursing. Let’s Pretend Hospital has been held 10 times its inception in 2008 and has served as a model for other schools and healthcare centers around the United States. The Nursing program appreciates the support from Cullman Regional, Children’s of Alabama, Hanceville Fire and Rescue, the Cullman County and Cullman City school systems, and the private schools that participate each year. For more information, visit www.wallacestate.edu/nursing or call 256.352.8199.