Hannah Schmitt, 15, wants to be a radiation therapist when she grows up.
She’s got a few years to go, though, so this week the Durango High School sophomore is getting a taste for the field at the College of Southern Nevada’s Health Career Exploration Camp.
“I wanted to learn about the medical field because I know in Las Vegas the medical field isn’t as large,” Schmitt said during a lunch break Tuesday. “I’m glad I came to this camp because without it I don’t think I’d get the knowledge that I need.”
Schmitt is one of 53 Clark County high school students taking classes at the weeklong daytime “camp” from CSN instructors on medical subjects that are taught at the college, including nursing, paramedic medicine, health information and veterinary technology.
For $100, students spend four hours a day in classes of eight to 10 at CSN’s School of Health Sciences, getting the opportunity to use lab equipment and work hands-on with instructors. Among other things, participants this week drew fake blood from the arms of mannequins, ran tests for metabolic disorders, operated a radiation simulation machine and helped manufacture eyeglasses.
Cassie Gentry, camp coordinator and chair of CSN’s Department of Health Related Professions, said the program, which is in its first year, was created to expose students interested in medicine to different disciplines.
“When a lot of students think about health care, the first things that come to mind are doctors and nurses,” Gentry said. “There’s so many other different roles in health care that might be of interest to these students.”
Art Little, director of CSN’s Cardiorespiratory Sciences Program, said building familiarity with the available options is important because many campers arrive with preconceived notions about being doctors.
Most students in a class he taught this year raised their hands when asked, “Who in this room wants to be a doctor?” But he thinks they’ll ponder other possibilities after learning that would mean spending another decade or more in school after they graduate high school and entering the working world buried under student loans, he said.
“I don’t know that we’re going to change their minds,” Little said. “I think the reality will eventually hit them that maybe this (being a doctor) isn’t for me, maybe there’s something else.”
By the time camp concludes Friday, Gentry said, she hopes the students have gained insight on which medical fields they’re most interested in pursuing long term so they can start preparing by taking applicable classes, like biology, in high school.
“It’s just kind of an introduction to our programs,” she said. “They’re entering 10th and 11th grade. Now is the time to start thinking, ‘I need a biology foundation. I need these sorts of classes,’ if this is something they’re truly interested in.”