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Virtual MedQuest 2020

While the total effect that COVID-19 has on rural healthcare may not be known for years, one thing that is known for certain is that Northeast Oregon Area Health Education Center (NEOAHEC) is able to continue providing a pipeline for students interested in health careers. This year’s MedQuest Health Career Exploration Camp was adapted to become virtual in order to provide students with a way to connect with others who have similar interests during this time of isolation from friends and regular summer activities.

“Having this camp was so important to me because my friends aren’t interested in health careers. This gave me a chance to meet people around my age that had similar interests to me. Now that we’ve met through MedQuest, we can continue to talk to each other,” said one MedQuest camper.

The idea to transform MedQuest into a virtual camp was driven heavily by the Camp Director, Hailey Hulse. Students in rural and frontier communities don’t have access to the same kind of resources available in urban areas in terms of future planning and preparation. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, all students whether in urban or rural areas are finding themselves isolated from opportunities that they may have and otherwise.

“This year’s camp was the perfect opportunity to provide resources to high school students across the state. Although we were bummed that the in-person camp didn’t occur, we were still excited to provide an opportunity for kids to gain insight into healthcare. I thought by making this camp virtual we would be able to give kids an inside perspective on the daily lives and attitudes of those serving in rural healthcare, while still following the safety precautions implemented during this time,” said Hailey.

Historically job shadows are the highlight at our MedQuest camp. It was important to the NEOAHEC team to think about how to provide something as similar to in-person MedQuest as possible Interviews with individuals working in health care and virtual tours of a hospital was the best way to give campers a chance to see what it was like to be a part of a healthcare team. There was a wide range of careers highlighted through recorded interviews including, Medical Assistants, Pediatricians, Nursing Students, Medical Students, Phlebotomists, Registered Nurses, Pharmacists, Scribes, Physical Therapists, and others. With the help of Grande Ronde Hospital students were also able to see inside the units of a hospital. The tours included, the Emergency Department, Intensive Care Unit, Medical Surgical Floor, Family Birthing Center and an Operating Room Tour.

The continued dedication and support of this camp by Grande Ronde Hospital and Clinics, and La Grande Fire and Rescue helped make MedQuest a rich experience for students. In addition to tours, interviews with healthcare providers, procedure demonstrations, scholarship advice, and the basics of mental health first aid, students also had a chance to learn from medical students from eastern Oregon who just graduated.

“I loved watching Dr. Abdala’s video about his experience in medical school as a Latin student. He explained how beneficial it is to come from a diverse background as it can help you become more open minded to other’s lifestyles and beliefs and focus on the primary objective, which is the patient’s care. Also, he discussed that working hard and being passionate helps lead you in a positive direction towards your goals and aspirations,” mentioned another camper.

The MedQuest counselor team was very impressed by how motivated the students were to watch the videos and give camp a 100% effort. Counselors were able to host video meetings with students, and help them through the camp activities while also providing great perspective since they are all in the process of applying or being accepted into a health professions school.

“The best part of camp today was the reassurance I gained. Whenever I think about my future I get overwhelmed because I don’t know how I will accomplish everything. Learning to apply for scholarships and hearing successes and passion from others has assured me that I can become a PA, and that I will love it,” contributed another camper.

In this camp’s rich history, NEOAHEC wouldn’t have anticipated adapting its concept to become compliant in a world that is now physically distanced. “It’s not a natural thing to teach students about careers that require human contact in a contactless/virtual setting, but we did our best to offer students with high-quality content. It goes to show that with inquisitive, motivated students, and an entire community dedicated to growing our own health care professionals, anything is possible,” said Meredith Lair, NEOAHEC executive director.