Scrubs Camp teaches southwest North Dakota students about rural health science careers

Students from area high schools engaged in interactive lab experiences provided by health professionals at the Henry Biesot Activity Center.

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Medical laboratory technicians from CHI St Alexius Health show students what a day in their job looks like during Scrubs Camp on March 16, 2023.
Photo by Allison Engstrom / The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON - From bottle-feeding lambs to simulating phlebotomy, area High school students were given the opportunity to explore different health science careers through a hands-on approach at Scrubs Camp, a program supported by the Center for Rural Health at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences aimed at increasing awareness, interest and understanding of health careers available in rural North Dakota.

Sophomores, juniors and seniors from surrounding area high schools traveled from room to room where health science professionals from the community provided interactive lab experiences to help show students the variety of health science jobs available.

The camp is a program supported by the Center for Rural Health at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences focused on rural students and increasing awareness, interest, and understanding of health careers available in rural North Dakota through creative and interactive activities.

With 17 presenters and over 70 students attending, Rhonda Schauer and Pat Billings, the two who organized the event, watched excitedly as their hard work unfolded.

The 25-minute sessions provided included surgical tech, emergency room nurse, EMS, pharmacy, disability services, behavioral health, and even veterinarians were among the long list of presenters.


Schauer and Billings were pleasantly surprised by the number of people and businesses within the community that were eager to carve out a day to spend with students, so much so that there were almost too many volunteers.

“You expect half of them to say no or we’re short-staffed or we can't get the time out or whatever but that just didn't happen. It was a good problem,” Schauer said.

Cashwise and Subway even helped to provide snacks and lunch to the ambitious students.

“We didn't have to pull teeth to get people to come, they were all interested,” Billings said.

Students from not only Dickinson but surrounding areas including South Heart, Belfield, Hettinger, and Hebron were among some of the high schools taking part in the event.

For both Schauer and Billings, it is important to offer opportunities like this to a variety of areas.

“The cool part to me is offering [the program] to so many different school areas that you're not only feeding to the local education programs but to the outlying ones too,” Schauer said.

Billings agreed, mentioning that since North Dakota is so spread out it can be too challenging for smaller communities to put something like this on.


Students are shown the ins and outs of phlebotomy and are able to practice giving an IV on a training arm.
Photo by Allison Engstrom / The Dickinson Press

Students shared their hopes of careers as mental health providers or dreams of working as a pediatrician and though some felt they haven't quite narrowed down exactly what health science career they see themselves in yet, many felt the event opened their eyes to different options.

Mina Soggie is a junior at Dickinson High school who said she really liked being able to see the different options.

While she has always wanted to be a geriatric nurse, not only seeing but getting hands-on experience at the phlebotomy session opened her eyes to different interests too.

For Eva Dustin another DHS junior, the sessions have given her a better understanding of what to expect from different career paths.

“I think it's a lot better hearing it from the people who actually do it rather than the teachers because then I get to feel more of the experience firsthand and hear about the different cases they did,” Dustin said.

The Dickinson Fire Department shows students the variety of skills it takes to do their job.
Photo by Allison Engstrom / The Dickinson Press

Schauers' goal is to provide this exposure to kids in hopes it encourages them to enroll in health science classes and continue on either working or going to the DSU nursing program, calling that situation a win-win.

Averie Wax, DHS Sophomore, hopes to do just that to help pave her path to becoming a plastic surgeon.

Wax plans on job shadowing in the physical therapy field her senior year to get to know more about the body and then going on to Bismark State College to pursue their surgical tech program.


Luckily for Wax, surgical tech was one of the sessions offered and of course, the one she was looking forward to most.

Presenters from CountryHouse who work in memory care enjoyed the opportunity to share what a day in their job looks like and hopes to encourage the future generation to get involved in senior living.

As in many healthcare fields, senior living is experiencing a staffing crisis as Amanda Wilson, memory care director explained, sharing that she sometimes worries about what the future looks like for them.

For Wilson and Jessica Binstock, service coordinator at Country House, it was impactful to see how many kids were interested in what the team presented.

To simulate what it feels like to live with dementia, the team did a hands-on activity spitting out directions and trying to trip up and confuse students while they drew a picture.

In the end, they have this awful picture Wilson laughed, but then they discuss that this is what their patients experience and how they work to best navigate that.

“To see so many kids interested in what we have to say, it means a lot to us to be here today,” Wilson said.

Both Schauer and Billings have loved the journey of not only working together to put on the event but also being able to see the smooth turnout.


Given the community involvement and student reactions, Schauer and Billings do hope to provide the event again next year potentially growing it even further.

Allison is a news reporter from Phoenix, Arizona where she earned a degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. After college, she worked as a middle school writing teacher in the valley. She has made her way around the U.S. driving from Arizona to Minnesota and eventually finding herself here in Dickinson. She has a passion for storytelling and enjoys covering community news.
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