The Rural Collaborative Opportunities for Occupational Learning in Health Scrubs Program, supported by the Center for Rural Health (CRH) and the North Dakota Area Health Education Centers, provides unique, interactive opportunities for rural North Dakota students to learn about health care careers from professionals in the field. Based on programs offered by the South Dakota Healthcare Workforce Center, the goal of the program is to increase students’ knowledge and interest in health careers available in rural North Dakota.

“The idea behind the program is that if students understand at an early age the wide range of options in health careers, they are more likely to consider a health care career,” said Kylie Nissen, Senior Project Coordinator, CRH. “If students are aware of career opportunities in their hometown, and the need for those services in rural areas, they may return after completing higher education.”

Scrubs Camps are held in rural North Dakota communities to introduce students in grades 5-12 to the wide-ranging field of health care. Not to be confused with careers fairs, these camps feature interactive activities led by local health care professionals, offering students the chance to learn firsthand about specific health careers and what it is like to work in a rural North Dakota community.

Building upon the Scrubs Camp concept, the CRH also offers the Scrubs Academy, a four day, three-night summer camp held at the University of North Dakota. Geared toward middle school students, the Scrubs Academy introduces students to a higher education environment and strengthens their skill sets with a variety of hands-on activities.

The community collaboration and interactive opportunities provided truly make the Scrubs Program stand out. Rural North Dakota K-12 schools and health care facilities are eligible to apply for grant funding to support the Scrubs Program in their community. Applicants are required to actively partner with local K-12 school systems, local health care facilities, local economic or job development authorities or similar entities. These community partners then work together to put on the camps for local students.

In order to keep enhancing the program, evaluations are completed by students, presenters, and staff at each Camp and Academy. Improvements are made based on what’s reflected in the evaluations. Emails are sent to the students and their parents every two years until the students are out of high school to determine the students’ career intent and if the Scrubs Program influenced their decision in pursuing a health-related career. In addition, the CRH is currently working on gaining access to a service that will allow them to see which college program students pursue.

“One student that attended a Scrubs Camp 6 years ago didn’t have a career goal in mind when attending, but through the camp discovered that she really wanted to be a nurse. She was accepted into her college nursing program last year and attributes her career decision to the Scrubs Camp she attended,” said Nissen.

The Scrubs program is funded through State Office of Rural Health, Area Health Education Center, and state appropriated workforce dollars. Click here for more information on the program.

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