Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs


News Release

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

June 1, 2006

Rural teens to sample health careers
during weekend camp at NIU

DeKalb — High school sophomores who attend next weekend's Rural Health Careers Camp at Northern Illinois University will gain hands-on insight of the wide array of jobs available in health care.

They'll also have the opportunity to see and experience how first-responders and health care workers react to an emergency similar to the terrifying accident suffered this March by Southern Illinois University cheerleader Kristi Yamaoka, who plunged 15 feet from the top of a pyramid of her teammates onto her head. The result: a chipped neck vertebra and a concussion.

A member of the NIU cheerleading squad has volunteered to portray a victim similar to Yamaoka during a demonstration for the opening night of the camp, scheduled from Friday, June 9, to Sunday, June 11. Emergency medical technicians from the DeKalb Fire Department will perform the mock rescue.

“The labs on Saturday are designed to take the students to the next level – to understand the kind of testing and therapy the different departments would pursue following that kind of injury,” said Alan Robinson, director of outreach for the NIU College of Health and Human Sciences and an organizer of the camp.

“Clinical Laboratory Sciences, for example, they're going to want to check the urine for blood. There could be internal bleeding. Is there evidence of a concussion? At nursing, they'll do a quick physical assessment, see if she can move her eyes, look left, look right,” Robinson added. “At the physical therapy lab, where they have certain kinds of beach balls that are heavier, they'll toss those around. It helps build strength. And the balance beams – they'll be working with that a little bit, especially after a head injury.”

The Health Careers Camp is part of a critical effort to encourage students from small towns to realize their potential and return to their hometowns after college to work as health care professionals.

Campers are coming from towns across northwest Illinois, including Amboy, Ashton, DeKalb, Earlville, Erie, Genoa, LaMoille, Oregon, Ottawa, Pecatonica, Poplar Grove, Rockford, Shabbona and Sycamore.

 Students participate in hour-long, hands-on experiences in clinical laboratory sciences, nursing, nutrition, physical therapy and speech, language and hearing. A session with a “career-cruiser” computer program will expose them to an even wider array of jobs in the health care field.

The concept grew from a summit held two years ago in Rockford at the University of Illinois National Center for Rural Health Professions, a co-sponsor of the camp

The camp is sponsored by the National Center for Rural Health Professions at the University of Illinois-Rockford; the NIU College of Education's Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education and the NIU College of Health and Human Sciences; the Northern Illinois Area Health Education Center; and the UIC Rural Medical Education Program.

Last year's first-time camp proved successful, Robinson said.

“The kids really enjoyed it,” he said. “Three are coming back from last year's group to act as junior counselors. We've invited them to interface with the kids and provide their reflections a year later.”

“Many of these students are leaning toward at least two or three health care careers, and this helps firm up their decision,” said Al Ottens, a professor in the College of Education 's Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education and another organizer of the event. “It also helps them identify careers they might not have thought of, and helps them become aware of the opportunities for health careers in rural areas of the state. Most of them are coming from the northwest quadrant of the state.”

Counselors from DeKalb and Dixon will attend the camp to provide information on what courses students entering their sophomore year should pursue to build the foundation for health care professions. They also will discuss scholarships and other financial aid options.

“Our main role is to alert guidance counselors in the region about the opportunities in health care,” said Ottens, who trains school counselors. “Many times school counselors are on the front line in terms of identifying students who have these interests.”

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