Old Forge first-graders get health, safety tips from Meritus pros

About 50 Old Forge Elementary School first-graders got some hands-on medical experience Wednesday during a visit with several Meritus Health nurses and staff members.

Students learned about a variety of topics, from basic first aid and safety precautions to proper nutrition, in half-hour interactive segments. They also had the opportunity to use real medical equipment, such as blood-pressure cuffs and stethoscopes.

First-graders from Jonathan Hager Elementary School attended the sessions Monday, while students from Ruth Anne Monroe Primary School will come Thursday and Hickory Elementary School students will visit Friday.

Meritus spokeswoman Joelle Butler said the visits, which took place at Robinwood Professional Center, were a first for Meritus and Washington County Public Schools. She said children often are public health advocates at home for things such as wearing seatbelts.

Overall, more than 300 first-graders will attend sessions throughout the week.

Old Forge first-grade teacher Amy Renner said the students were very excited for the visit.

“I think this is a great opportunity for them to get out of the classroom and to be able to experience all of the materials and the tools and the safety tips firsthand,” she said. “There’s only so much we can do in the classroom.”

Renner said she thought the talk on nutrition would be particularly important for students, as well as basic safety. She also said being able to use some of the actual medical equipment hopefully would make the students less intimidated to go to the doctor or hospital.

“A lot of them have parents who work here, and they know the hospital, they know Meritus, so this was a great chance for them to see some behind-the-scenes things,” she said.

Carol Grove, director of maternal-child services and education at Meritus, said the opportunity was a great collaborative effort to offer a unique experience to children in the community.

“We are always looking for ways to bring health care to the forefront, and starting at such a young age with these guys, it was such a cool opportunity for us,” she said.

Grove said the topics chosen were items children could commonly encounter, like with very basic first aid. Students were taught about sanitizing their hands, comforting someone who was ill, what to do if someone were bleeding and applying ice to injuries.

Safety topics discussed ranged from wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle to not eating dangerous items such as Tide Pods. The healthy-choices discussion covered eating a balanced meal and the importance of physical activity.

Grove said the hope was that when the students leave, they will have had a great time and learned a bit along the way.

“If they can walk away today with just knowing that we are friendly faces that are here to help them, that will be a win in our book,” Grove said.

She said if the visits also happened to inspire any future nurses, that would be an added bonus.

Original posted on