Puppets introduce young students to medical professions


tiffanie hoover image

Tiffanie Hoover, introduces preschool children to the field of medicine, using puppets and video, at the Gingerbread House.

Tiffanie Hoover, Adams State College senior nursing major, chose to do her service learning project with a puppet on her hand.

As part of the Nursing Program at Adams State, students must complete a service learning project which includes 60 contact hours, daily logs, self evaluations, a paper, and a presentation. Students have traveled as far as Haiti to volunteer their services. Hoover reached out to children in the San Luis Valley.

Shawn Elliott, Adams State nursing education specialist, knew Hoover wanted to stay in the valley to complete her service learning requirements and arranged for her to meet Matt Guy, a representative from the Southeastern Area Health Education Center (AHEC), located in Pueblo.

Guy taught Hoover how to use puppets and video to educate young children about health professionals. "The presentation introduces children to health care in a non-threatening way and promotes interest in the health care profession," Hoover said.

Hoover visited Sargent, Manassa, and the Adams State College Gingerbread House, a preschool facility, and taught children from preschool age through the fifth grade. "The older students seemed to enjoy the presentation as much, if not more, than the younger audience," Hoover said. "The video lasts 12 minutes and features eight puppets, with Ashley and Josh, a brother and sister, being the main characters." While the video plays, Hoover keeps the featured puppet character on her hand.

In the video, Josh breaks his leg and is taken by ambulance to the hospital where he meets technicians and nurses. The video concludes with Josh visiting his family doctor, six weeks after the accident, when his leg has healed. "After a few segments, I stop the video and ask questions," Hoover said. "For instance, after Josh breaks his leg, I ask the children, 'What should Ashley do?' Even the youngest ones knew to call 911."

Hoover also has the children do activities similar to those a physical therapist might request. "I have them touch their toes, raise their hands over their heads," Hoover said. "I also explain about immunizations and why they need to get shots. In the end, some say, 'Okay, now I can be brave.'"

The children receive a coloring book that includes healthy habits including what foods are good to eat, hand-washing skills and information about helmets. "I am glad I picked this project," Hoover said. She wears her nursing scrubs and brings her stethoscope during the presentations. "The children see me in a non-threatening way, rather than in the clinic where they are scared of getting a shot."

Hoover works for Physician Services. "I believe if you treat children with respect and dignity it goes a lot further when they are being seen by a medical professional," Hoover said. "The presentation may encourage these young children to consider a career in the health profession."

AHEC presented the puppet idea to the Colorado Trust Foundation Health Professions Initiative grant recipients at a spring 2007 meeting which Elliott and Amanda Jojola, nursing education specialist, attended.

"Both Shawn, and myself, thought this would be a great service learning project for ASC nursing students to create an awareness about health care professions in young children within the San Luis Valley," Jojola said. "Hopefully this will plant a seed in our future professionals and provide us with another long-term solution to our nursing shortage."

Hoover said the Nursing Program at Adams State College has been very helpful and encouraging. "The program is amazing," she said. "I appreciate their efforts at furthering my education and working with me in any way possible."

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By Linda Relyea