By Declan Chin
Photo by Declan Chin
Back in December, I heard about a program known as Camp Children’s Hospital Los Angeles from my mom and older sisters. It was my sophomore year, and I had barely started thinking about potential careers yet. I decided to apply even though the program was primarily for rising juniors. Out of the 400 high school students that applied, about 100, including myself, were lucky enough to get accepted.
Camp CHLA lasted five days for eight and a half hours, and each day consisted of skills labs, presentations on all different kinds of professions, and job shadowing a professional at the hospital. Each camper was also part of a team of about ten people. Everyday, teams earned points for volunteering and answering questions. The group with the most points at the end of the week earned a prize.
In skills labs, specialists from all different departments of the hospital took time off to teach us helpful skills. We learned how to perform CPR, determined proper posture, were taught to calculate BMI, and so much more. Also, we competed in jeopardy games and roleplay as doctors and patients. Learning the skills and facts was great, but the best part of the skills labs was talking with trained professionals. Hearing about their life journeys and job descriptions was a great way of discovering even more potential careers.
Each day we heard four to five presentations from an array of professionals. We listened to nurses, physicians, surgeons, dieticians, and many more professionals. Hearing from all the professionals was interesting because most of them did not plan on going into the profession that they ended up in. At camp, I was one of the only people who didn’t have a specific job that I had already set my eyes on. At first, this was intimidating, but the stories of all these successful people made me realize that my undecided view was normal.
Although skills labs and presentations were interesting and engaging, nothing was better than job shadowing. This is where we went to follow professionals doing their real job and received first hand experience in what each job was like.
On Monday, I visited the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) where I shadowed a registered nurse. I saw four different in-patients, ranging from six months to ten years in age. I listened to heartbeats and assisted the nurses with bandaging wounds and diaper changes.
Tuesday I went to the Endocrinology floor where I shadowed a nurse practitioner. Although there weren’t any patients for the two and a half hours I was there, the nurse practitioner I was assigned to actually knew my sister who used to go to CHLA for her Type 1 diabetes. It was great to catch up with her and hear all about her job.
Wednesday I shadowed two doctors in the Emergency Department. Both the doctors worked really hard to explain everything they were doing and took me around to see a several patients. Together, the two doctors provided me with so much information not just about their own job, but all of healthcare in general. Although the day was a bit slow for their departments standards, this ended up being my favorite job to shadow.
Thursday I went to the operating room. This was definitely the most intense area available to shadow at the hospital. Two people at camp actually fainted from what they saw, so I was a bit nervous going in that day. I saw a spinal surgery and a hernia surgery on two young boys. I didn’t understand how real surgery was until I first saw an anesthesiologist putting a child to sleep. This was eye opening for me and really made me appreciate surgeons for what they do.
Friday I went to shadow Clinical Lab Scientists. We examined our own bacteria from saliva in microscopes, saw all different kinds of specimen culture, and learned from a variety of scientists. The busy laboratory scientist didn’t have that much time to give us activities, but observing their work environment and job life gave us just as much insight as any activity would have.
Camp CHLA was an amazing experience that exposed me to a whole new field of careers. All the different jobs in the hospital are connected somehow, and one can’t live without the other. This camp showed me that a hospital is more than just work, it is a community. Even if you are just a little bit interested in healthcare, I would wholeheartedly recommend applying.
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