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ALEXANDRIA BAY — Students from across the tri-county area like Madelyn G. Morgan, a sophomore at Indian River High School, got a chance this week to see the inner workings of a hospital because of Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization’s MASH Camp.

The camp allows students in grades eight to 12 to see the health care industry in a more interactive way by letting kids participate in hands-on activities that showcase different career opportunities.

Students learned about educational requirements, skills, job duties, as well as the personal qualities of health care professionals.

“I like MASH Camp a lot because I feel like it gives you a perspective inside the hospital that you don’t usually get,” Morgan said. “When you’re here, you get to actually see the inner workings of the hospital and everything that’s happening.”

Morgan said she feels camps like this could motivate some people to work in other areas of a hospital.

She came into the camp not really knowing what she wanted to do. But after the camp, she wants to work in the Emergency Department or the inpatient unit.

Morgan said she likes the ER because it’s something different every day, but said she liked the inpatient side as well “because it’s the opposite side of the coin” and spending more time with them one on one.

Health care is in Morgan’s blood as her father was a medic in the Army. She says part of her interest in the industry is because she wants to help people.

“I want to improve people’s lives and make their day better and just help people,” she said.

Doing MASH Camp is a good way to improve the community, Morgan said.

“I feel like this is a really good experience to help the community around us,” she said. “People don’t really know what they want to do and when they see the hospital, it inspires them to want to help people and I feel like we need a lot of healthcare workers right now with the situation and with COVID and everything, so a lot of people got burned out or they quit. So, it’s providing new people to go into the healthcare field.”

Devin Brandt, medical technologist at River Hospital, was showing students in the laboratory different specimens on microscopes, and showing them the ropes of being a medical technologist.

“I wish I knew this coming in,” he said.

In the medical technology field, Brandt said they will do quality testing and maintenance to ensure the results coming from the laboratory can be trusted.

“I think what people don’t get is our day-to-day work, which is really what I said, making sure the samples and results are good but also taking care of the analyzers now that do all of our testing. So you get a lot of hands-on engineering work and computer system work and just how to work as a team together and with the other nursing and doctor staff teams in a high-paced environment. It’s really rewarding and it gives a lot of area for improvement, advancement, and great on a resume,” he said.

Brandt said he wishes that MASH Camp was done more.

“I think a lot of science and math students would really enjoy this,” he said, while adding he likes giving his point of view for his interest in the field. “It gives them a comfortable place to ask questions and feel like they can get direction.”

Brandt became a medical technician before it was its own program and degree, so he studied biology, which he says he wouldn’t do again because a biology degree is generally used for becoming a teacher or environmental work.

He started becoming a medical technician in Rochester and loved it. Later, he started becoming a traveling medical technician.

However, now that he’s older, he decided he did not want to move every six months. After signing a couple of 13-week contracts, Brandt stayed at River Hospital, and has been at River for more than a year now.

“I stayed because this place is great,” he said.

Tasha L. Dwyer, healthcare recruiter and education recruiter for River Hospital, said the day is important because the future of the healthcare industry is the students that were a part of MASH Camp these past couple of days.

“Not only these students, but they’ll take this information back to their schools, back to their counselors and we’ll have future students come because of these students sitting here today,” she said. “It’s important because there’s huge shortages, as we all know, in healthcare nationwide, not just here at River Hospital, we’re pretty stable right now. But we know that there’s going to be issues in the future.”

There’s some federal advantages to working in a rural hospital such as River, like loan repayments because the hospital is in a rural facility in a healthcare-shortage area.

Beth A. Solar, workforce outreach manager for FDRHPO, said it’s important to reach out to the younger generation to get them interested in the healthcare industry.

“This is what we call the start of the pipeline,” she said. “We’ve really used MASH Camp to really spark and ignite that passion to get into healthcare and use MASH Camp, utilize it to start into that pipeline to discover where they want to go.”

Solar said staffing shortages are going to continue to get worse as people get older.

“We’re going to need these kids to fill those spots for us,” she said.

After completing MASH Camp, students can come back for a job shadowing program.

The hospital has seen the end result too as some kids that started in MASH Camp have grown up to become an employee of the hospital.

“It’s just cool to see it come full circle. Especially for those people to stay right here and take care of our community, that’s my favorite part,” Dwyer said.

Morgan said when she gets back to school, she will tell her friends how fun it was, and if they think they want to get involved in the healthcare field, to try out MASH Camp.

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