In the News

AARC Connects with Kids at Science Festival

Bookmark and Share

May 6, 2014

In order to compete in the 21st century economy, America will need more people who are trained to excel in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Encouraging kids to consider these career paths was the goal of the USA Science & Engineering Festival that took place in Washington, DC, at the end of April.

The event drew approximately 325,000 children, parents, and teachers over three days, and they all had the chance to learn more about respiratory therapy thanks to an AARC booth organized and staffed by members from the D.C. area.

Carolyn Williams, BS, RRT, led the effort. “This event was awesome. The children were very interested in our booth, as we always had someone there waiting to learn about what we had on display,” says the therapist at Children’s National Medical Center. ”It felt good to see so many eyes light up when they were able to touch the items we had on hand.”

Carolyn Williams with student

Carolyn Williams (left) enjoyed interacting with this future respiratory therapist, one of 325,000 attendees at the show.

A visual experience

Williams and her crew, which included an array of staff members from Children’s National and, in some cases, friends and relatives who were recruited to lend a hand as well, set up their booth to showcase how respiratory therapists use various modalities when treating patients.

Realizing that kids learn best when they get to see how something actually works, they brought a number of manikins along with them —

  • Manikins A and B represented infants with oxygen requirements and their treatment with modalities ranging from a nasal cannula to an oxygen mask. Therapists explained the use proper use of an MDI with a spacer and demonstrated the correct technique when using peak flow meters. 
  • Manikin B was also used to demonstrate a small volume nebulizer for a cystic fibrosis patient and the purpose of CPT after the aerosol treatment. Proper technique of mucous clearance devices, which included the Vest and the G6 electronic percussor, was demonstrated as well.
  • Manikin C was hooked up to a large volume nebulizer to demonstrate an ED asthma patient receiving a one hour aerosol treatment. Therapists presented the protocol they would follow in such a case and showed the kids a model of the bronchial tree to illustrate inflammation and constriction of the airways. They also explained why the patient would receive steroids and a bronchodilator.
  • Manikins D and E represented a trached infant and trached adult. RTs explained why someone might require a trach and showed the children how they would insert it and secure it in place. They also explained how and why a patient may need support with breathing at night, but may not require a breathing machine during the day. 
  • Neonatal manikin F and adult manikin G with inflatable lungs gave the children the chance to use the Ambu bag and observe how much pressure they were using to ventilate each manikin. Therapists spoke about their role in traumas, codes, and medical alerts, and demonstrated the intubation technique.

9th grader

This eager 9th grader showed great interest in the profession and got a lot of hands-on experience in the booth.

Visitors to the booth learned more about the RT’s role on the transport team from Cherise Wilson, RRT, as well, who definitely attracted the kids’ attention by wearing her transport team uniform to the event. Delia Hill, RRT, provided an overview of the care she delivers to patients in the NICU, and CPR instructor Rene Hearst, RRT, from the National Institutes of Health, was on hand to explain how the automatic external defibrillator works and review CPR techniques with the kids

Breathe In, Breathe Out

Therapists who worked the event wore specially designed lab coats to reinforce their role as clinicians, and also had t-shirts designed for their manikins. Both reflected the overall theme of the booth, which was “Breathe In, Breathe Out.”

Williams says the kids who came by were enthralled with the demonstrations and especially liked the open lungs, since they provided them with the opportunity to see the lungs move. “The children and parents were very impressed with the hands on experience,” says the therapist. “Allowing them to bag the manikins and ‘breathe in and breathe out’ for them reinforced the theme of our booth.”

The interactive nature of the booth generated lots of questions too. One young lady in particular especially impressed Williams. “We had a 9th grader who was very interested in our booth,” she recalls. ”She introduced herself, gave me a strong handshake, and said she wanted to know about everything that we had on display.”

Another student who visited with Cherise Wilson spent at least 30 minutes in the booth, and when she left with her grandmother, said she’d be back. True to her word, she did return later in the day with even more questions about the profession and all it may have to offer.