Kids Fair delights youngsters with a visit to the hospital

The world of doctors, EMTs and nurses became real to a group of 2- and 3-year-olds through kindergartners at Kalispell Regional Medical Center just before Easter.

For two hours on March 25, 107 Kid Kare youngsters and students from Stillwater Christian School visited KRMC’s first-ever Kids Fair, where they were  drawn into the “play” that a range of specialists carefully planned as a way to show them just what the medical world is about.

A hard-working, creative crew of nurse leaders and physicians at Kalispell Regional Healthcare planned the interactive, hands-on session in four short weeks. It was a major undertaking, but the payoff was huge as they watched the children’s delighted faces and enthusiastic participation.

What began as one Kid Kare teacher’s request for hospitalist Anna Robbins, MD, to show a class of 3-year-olds what she does in her job eventually ended with 12 teachers and daycare providers leading their 107 young charges to eight stations at KRMC’s Buffalo Hill Conference Center on Good Friday morning.

•Children began their visit by reviewing proper hand-washing technique with Shari Courser, RN, and examining the results under black lights, learning that proper hand-washing is a real art.

•They met a life-size teddy bear that helped Cody Bartholomew show what it takes to go through immunizations and visit the doctor. Teddy got a lot of shots and a lot of Band-Aids as the kids asked questions and role-played.

•Real surgical hats and masks went on the kids at the third station as Tricia Taylor, RN, and Christina Zavada, RN, let everyone be a surgeon with his or her own “patient” for 10 minutes on an “Operation” game board.

•Dr. Tate Woodward handed out stethoscopes for the children to take home. He taught them to listen to their own and their friends’ heartbeats, disassembled a life-size replica and talked about the body’s inner workings, and shared radiology images of frogs and snakes. Radiology tech Ashley Perlberg answered questions about getting an X-ray.

•Dr. Tyler Hoppes and his two assistants, Liam Browne, 7, and Austin Dodson, 9, demonstrated how arm casts are applied and then sawed off. Kids touched the casting material and saw images of actual fractures on a light board.

•A pediatric hospital room setting featured a child-sized mannequin connected to a heart monitor, saturation monitor, IV and oxygen. Children questioned Dr. Paul Berkram as they removed and replaced the equipment designed to help a sick child become a well child. Elizabeth Heddinghan, RN, and Lori Sagona, RN, assisted. Next door, the neonatal intensive care team of Mindy Fuzesy, RN, and Doris Yeatts, RN, allowed kids to get up close and personal with a NICU isolette and newborn-size mannequin.

•Respiratory therapist Rich Lamere fitted every child with an oxygen mask and let them feel puffs of oxygen blowing through it. He explained why kids sometimes need oxygen, and showed them how to make a mask fit more comfortably.

•The final exhibit was all about 911. Kids watched an animated video on calling 911, then role-played with A.L.E.R.T. flight crew nurses Liz Sheehan, RN, and Hank Dietrich, RN, and paramedic Reese Roat. They wrapped it up with a tour of the A.L.E.R.T. ambulance.

 Dr. Robbins worked closely with nursing leadership Johnnie Logan, Ginger Bundy and Lucy Williams as an unofficial planning committee. Dr. Pat Rankin, the chief physician executive, gave his immediate blessing.

 In the end, the whole crew left with a sense of accomplishment.

“Perhaps the kids will remember the fair and maybe a seed was planted,” Johnnie Logan said. “If any of these little fair participants are ever hospitalized as a victim of trauma, or if they break a bone or have a premature brother or sister, if they’re just going to the doctor for a well check and immunizations, or if they need to call 911, hopefully fear of the unknown will be less. And who knows? Perhaps on March 25 a healthcare provider was born.”

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