Even though Holly Van Brocklin and Matt Harbawi will not graduate from their Rancho Cordova Respiratory Therapy program for another nine months, they know enough to captivate 150 seventh graders eager to learn about the inner workings of the body’s respiratory system.
Holly and Matt spent a full day in early January at Folsom Middle School introducing five consecutive classes of teacher, Kendra Duncan’s science students, to various medical tools, equipment and treatment of respiratory illness and disease. The two SJVC RT students set up lab stations to get the pre-teens up and out of their seats and engaged in the demonstrations.
Holly and Matt used a PowerPoint presentation and display models to educated students about illnesses, such as asthma, pneumonia and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), as well as their medical therapies and interventions.
One station displayed various oxygen masks they might encounter in hospitals, another station showcased personal protection equipment worn when a therapist enters the room of someone in isolation due to infectious airborne disease, and a third displayed a lung model with removable components.
“What was fascinating was that they all seemed very, very interested in it and had really good questions,” says Holly Van Brocklin, whose daughter, Thea, was one of the students. “Most students either had asthma or had a family member who had asthma.”
Holly is the one who got the day-long event going. “The main reason I wanted to do this was to educate the kids about the importance of treating respiratory diseases and how to properly use their medication devices,” she says. “I wanted to show them, ‘Here’s what happens to your lungs if you smoke’, so that they take better care of themselves in terms of making healthy choices.”
SJVC instructors encourage students to take on these kinds of community service projects and to take full advantage of opportunities to educate the public in their areas of specialty.
“Matt and Holly are both wonderful students,” says Amy Bianco, Dean of Student Services. “They are very passionate about the RT program and eager to share their knowledge with the community.”
Holly was invited back to Ms. Duncan’s afternoon classes the next day to help students build lung models. Balloons, straws and cups were used to simulate lungs “where we demonstrated how negative pressure works and how the lungs inflate,” says Holly. “It was great seeing how excited the kids were when they pulled down on the balloon ‘diaphragm’ and the lungs inflated.”
Both Holly and Matt are several weeks into their externships and are excited to be working in the real-world of respiratory therapy. They both, however, still make time to inspire health consciousness within the hearts and minds of the next generation.