This April Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria welcomed its fifth set of fifth-grade “bunnies” for Operation Bunny Suit. Annually, 300 to 400 children from four Clatsop County schools visit Columbia Memorial for a hands-on introduction to health care careers and how the hospital works.
The program changes a bit each year with the addition of new activities. Last year’s bunnies explored surgery, hand hygiene, pet therapy, nutrition, fitness, respiratory health, patient safety, CPR and medical imaging.
Operation Bunny Suit gets its name from the surgical coveralls, also known as a “bunny suit,” that the children wear while in the surgery department. Visiting the operation room is a highlight for many children. While there, they learn to make and tie sutures and how to use a laparoscopic camera.
One student from Warrenton Grade School wrote, “I really enjoyed the abdominal camera, stitching up the sponge and the cauterizing tool… When I grow up, I want to be a doctor or a surgeon.”
For some students, the trip is an introduction to the hospital, but other students have visited a hospital before when they or a loved one was hurt or ill. These past experiences often leave the children nervous about hospitals in general. But, by showing them some of what happens at the hospital, Columbia Memorial helps them create new, more positive and comforting ideas about hospitals.
Warrenton Grade School teacher Peter Grauff wrote, “Thank you for helping to ease the students’ apprehension about hospitals through these activities. A few students were reluctant to go on the field trip at first, because of some anxiety about hospitals, but once they arrived and began participating they had a wonderful time.”
Through this program, children in Clatsop County receive basic nutrition and fitness education, which will help them to make healthier and more educated decisions about their health and wellbeing. They become more familiar with the hospital, which can decrease their anxiety toward any future visits they may have; and some students are inspired to consider a career in health care.
This fall Columbia Memorial’s very first bunnies from Hilda Lahti Elementary in Knappa will be juniors in high school and will be eligible to take Health Occupations, a health care career exploration class offered through a partnership between the school districts, community college and Columbia Memorial Hospital.