South Dakota: Innovative Student Workshops Cultivate Next Generation of Medical Professionals

South Dakota’s medical workforce is shrinking as doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals retire. Not enough students are preparing for healthcare careers to replace them. Nineteen of the state’s 66 counties have no practicing doctors—creating a critical gap in access to healthcare services. Research shows that the best way to recruit medical professionals for a specific geographic area is to interest local kids in medical careers when they are young, and then make sure they can go to college and have job opportunities in the area when they graduate. The South Dakota Department of Health used part of its 2014 Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant funding to support free workshops where students can explore medical careers.

Scrubs Camp is one of these workshops. In this one-day experience, high school students learn what it’s like to arrive at the scene of an emergency, see the equipment doctors and medical technicians use to treat patients, and even get to “practice medicine” by removing a “mole” from a banana. The camp offers multiple one-day workshops, and students can sign up for more than one to try different activities. In 2014, a total of 1,345 high school students participated in a Scrubs Camp day.

Camp Med is a one-day workshop offered to middle school students during the school day. Small groups of students progress through a series of job stations. After listening to medical professionals talk about what they do, students then practice activities related to the different jobs, like reading an x-ray, filling a prescription, or leading a physical therapy session. In 2014, a total of 2,163 middle school students participated in a Camp Med day.

The South Dakota Department of Health has been conducting Scrubs Camp and Camp Med workshops since 2007. As these first students begin graduating from college, the program will collect information about whether kids who participated in the program are more likely to enter medical careers.

The 19 Scrubs Camp/Camp Med days held in 2014—featuring hands-on, real-life experiences—are helping develop South Dakota’s next generation of medical professionals by heightening interest in health-related careers.

Story year: 2015

Teacher holding heart model in class

South Dakota used part of its PHHS Block Grant funding to support free workshops where students can explore medical careers.

Page last reviewed: April 17, 2018