Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

News Release

Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-9472

June 3, 2008

Rural Health Careers Camp returns Friday

DeKalb — The woman behind the wheel – she’s a diabetic who is not treating her condition – lapses into a high blood sugar coma and crashes her car into another vehicle.

A medical helicopter flies in to transport one of the injured drivers to a trauma center; another is whisked off to a nearby emergency room. Bones are broken, certainly, but what else is wrong? And what are the next steps once doctors and nurses have stabilized their patients?

This scenario (complete with a real chopper and rescue workers) and those questions await about 60 high school students who will arrive on the Northern Illinois University campus Friday morning for the fourth annual Rural Health Careers Camp.

Campers are recruited and invited from small towns across northern Illinois to glimpse jobs in health care in the hopes they will pursue those avenues and return home to live and work.

“It’s been difficult for the health care profession to recruit students from rural communities,” said Alan Robinson, director of outreach for the NIU College of Health and Human Sciences. “Because there are very few role models and not many places to work, they don’t choose the health professions. A few do, but it’s very few.”

The camp’s concept was developed during a 2004 summit in Rockford at the University of Illinois National Center for Rural Health Professions, a co-sponsor. Other sponsors are the NIU colleges of Health and Human Sciences and Education and the Northern Illinois Area Health Education Center. NIU Student Affairs also sponsors students.

Students ranging from incoming freshmen to juniors will sample clinical laboratory sciences, communicative disorders, dietetics, nursing and physical therapy. They also will receive career guidance from a computer program.

New events this year include a trip to Kishwaukee Community Hospital, where the students will view careers outside NIU’s curriculum, and to the university’s anatomy lab where they will take a tour through a human cadaver.

Lighter educational activities also are planned, including a public health pandemic game and a tournament featuring trivia questions from Robinson’s popular Acuity game. The students also will have opportunities for volleyball, billiards, bowling, movies and dance lessons.

When their parents return Sunday morning for the camp finale, counselors from NIU’s offices of admissions and financial aid speak about the path to college.

“We’re trying to get to the kids early so they still have time to go back to their high schools and look at what they’ve signed up for,” Robinson said. “You have to be pretty science-oriented for the health care professions; if these kids have not pursued a second year of biology or chemistry, they should rethink those decisions because they may not qualify for these majors.”

Towns represented this year are Algonquin, Amboy, Belvidere, Byron, Carbon Cliff, Cedarville, Chana, Crystal Lake, Dakota, Davis, DeKalb, Dixon, Durand, East Moline, Freeport, Galva, Genoa, Lake in the Hills, Lanark, Leaf River, Leland, Lena, Mazon, Orangeville, Oregon, Ottawa, Peru, Rochelle, Rock Falls, Rockford, Savanna, Scales Mound, Streator, Winnebago, Winslow and Woodruff.

Students were recruited by guidance counselors and science teachers, Robinson said, and some already were working or volunteering at their local hospitals. “Many of them would probably like to go back to their hometowns to work and live rather than move and work someplace else,” he said.

Although NIU’s camp is limited to students from the top part of the state, its lessons are not.

“Our model is being duplicated in Centralia, Ill., down south, using a community college,” Robinson said. “A hospital there is literally implementing everything we’ve done, including the emergency simulation. The model we’ve developed here is exportable.”

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