HANCEVILLE, Ala. — Though they only see about 20 or so first-graders at a time, the students in the Wallace State Community College Department of Nursing Education touch more than 1,000 lives over the course of the program’s annual Let’s Pretend Hospital.
Students in the Nursing program are reviewing their session from last year as they prepare to present information about Let’s Pretend Hospital at the Alabama SkillsUSA Leadership Conference, Championship and Career Expo in April of this year.
“SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce,” said Nursing Instructor Heather Ashley. “Our students will be able to first show the state a community service project we have competed for the first-graders in our own community, second it helps them develop their communication skills, third it helps them understand the impact services have on the community and gives them a chance to network with industries.
“There are numerous other advantages our students will have simply by competing with SkillsUSA,” Ashley added. “At Wallace State we want the best for our students not only while they are here with us, but also after they leave. We want them to have the best and most opportunities to be excellent and excel in any way possible.”
Taylor Brock of Locust Fork, Paige Love of Remlap and Megan Moore of Trussville are the students who will make the presentation at SkillsUSA. Each are fifth semester Nursing students, anticipating earning their Associate in Applied Science degrees in Nursing. Each have participated in previous Let’s Pretend Hospital events.
Let’s Pretend Hospital is a community service project hosted annually by the Department of Nursing Education. First-graders from all Cullman county and city public and private schools are invited to attend the event, where they are introduced to different aspects of hospital and emergency services and encouraged on healthy habits that can prevent injury or illness.
Students are welcomed by Nursing students — some in princess and/or superhero costumes — as they get off of their school bus and given an identification bracelet before getting ready to enter Let’s Pretend Hospital. Each class of students is escorted by other Nursing students to each of nine stations: Nutrition, Safety, X-Ray, Hospital Room, Handwashing, Emergency Room, Operating Room, Ambulance and Fire. At each station, they learn a lesson such as what foods are healthy to eat and what foods aren’t or what to expect if they have to go to the emergency room or if they have to stay in the hospital overnight.
In 2018, Brock worked in the Emergency Room, interacting with students in the Dr. Seuss-themed room.
“I feel like if they have to go to the ER they may not be as scared because they’ll know what happens and it’s not as scary,” Brock said. “It helps to know that we’re part of the reason that when they go they’re not as scared.”
Love was also stationed in the Emergency Room, where she was “Thing 1” or “Thing 2,” and showed the students how they might be weighed or have their height checked when they come in to a hospital’s emergency room. She also leads the students into the room where the Grinch was being assessed and treated.
“They were able to see that he was being taken care of by the nurses,” Love said, adding the experience helped her learn how to communicate with younger children. “Because you have to speak to them differently and obviously do things differently to get them to understand and focus,” she said.
Moore was part of the welcoming committee for the visiting students. “We kind of set the tone for students and get them excited about Let’s Pretend Hospital,” she said. “It helps us engage with children and we learn how to help decrease their anxiety. We see what they’re expectations are in the hospital and how they would act and set that tone that it doesn’t have to be scary for them.”
For SkillsUSA, Ashley said the students will create a notebook that explains their project and how it impacts the community and the Nursing students and the skills they develop. They will present that notebook to a panel of judges. Should they win the state competition, they will advance to the national SkillsUSA event in Kentucky.