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Eyes aren't the only hands-on experience.
How do you learn to stitch up a cut when you can't practice on people? They use pigs' feet, but nurse Wendy Greenwood makes sure the kids keep things sterile just like as if it was a person.
Gloves on. Swab the wound with iodine. No scratching your nose, Greenwood tells one student -- and watch where you lay the curved needle so no one gets stuck.
Will Merriken, 12, of Warrenton, Va., finishes seven stitches, each a little faster as he gets more comfortable with the painstaking knots. "It's much easier once you have practiced and got the motions down."
On to the hospital's lab. If a kid's going to get lightheaded, this is where it happens, Fainter says, maybe because of the faint chemical odor or the warmth necessary for culturing bacteria. She arms them with peppermints to ward off wooziness.
Inside, Will volunteers first to prick his finger and test his blood type. He drips blood onto a slide and medical technologist Suzie Capron explains how different antibodies make one type clump but not another. He's a B-positive.
Down in the emergency room on a quiet Wednesday morning, Dr. Greg Wagner gathers a dozen of the students for what's called a mock code, a resuscitation drill that doctors and nurses perform to fine-tune their own skills.
Paramedics race in a mannequin: A 45-year-old woman in cardiac arrest.
The kids, each assigned an ER job, spring into action under Wagner's direction. One pumps air into the "patient's" lungs. One inserts a tube to open the windpipe. Three trade off CPR. Another sets up the defibrillator, calling "Clear!" before each of three shocks. Others give injections of heart-stimulating drugs.
Ten minutes later, they abruptly fall quiet as Wagner asks how long they should keep trying before declaring death. No one volunteers.
"How often do patients pass away?" 14-year-old Lark Nash of Warrenton finally asks.
Probably once a week, Wagner responds, describing the hardest part of his job. Nurses reveal a body bag lining the bed, and the students zip it over the mannequin.
Lauran Neergaard covers health and medical issues for The Associated Press in Washington.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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