Yuma Sun, Mara Knaub, Associated Press
An unidentified surgical technician demonstrates the use of instruments as she prepares for a simulated sinus procedures for students at Yuma Regional Medical Cente in Yuma, Ariz., on Nov. 10, 2011. Through the Yuma Youth Leadership program, high school juniors in the Yuma Union High School District learn more about the community and the business and organizations that make up the community.

YUMA, Ariz. — High school juniors recently got a glimpse inside the operating rooms at Yuma Regional Medical Center. On Nov. 10, about 18 students from the Yuma Youth Leadership program toured the hospital and learned about the services it offers.

They interacted with "patients," automated robots in the pharmacy, observed the latest technology in the heart center, learned about radiology and got "hands-on" experience in outpatient surgery.

In the morning, the students visited the YRMC clinical education department and worked with simulated "patients." These human-like patients are actually robotic dolls used by nursing students. They show symptoms, illness and talk. The students took their vital signs and tried to diagnose them.

Mar Ruiz, a junior at San Luis High School, enjoyed learning how the nurses and technicians work together. She was especially taken by the use of the mannequins and robots.

"With remote control, they can control its breathing and pulse, and it can even vomit. They also have 'babies,'" Ruiz noted.

In the afternoon the students head to the Yuma Regional Medical Plaza and suited up in full "bunny suits" to enter the outpatient surgery suites.

In a sterile environment, Registered Nurse Barbara Shank demonstrated the use of the "expensive" equipment and showed them how to perform a sinus procedure.

She noted that the "old way" required looking up the nostrils and grabbing and pulling. Sometimes it required incisions outside the nose or inside the mouth, making it more difficult. Nowadays, surgeons use instruments guided by technology similar to GPS navigation system.

Then the students tried it themselves on bell peppers doubling as noses. Under the supervision of the experienced hospital staff, the students took turns performing the procedures by using instruments with tiny cameras and video screens.

The students used state-of-the-art equipment to pluck "polyps" — actually seeds — from the "sinuses." Occasionally they had to irrigate and use suction in the area.

Donna Lay, YYL coordinator, said the program is designed to help high school juniors in the Yuma Union High School District learn more about the community and the business and organizations that make up the community.

Students apply to the program through their school counselors as sophomores. Once accepted, the students spend one day a month taking Toastmasters lessons and touring different segments of the community, such as government and education.

This month the theme was "Human and Health Services." On this day, students learned about health-care leadership and "got an inside look" into the field, Lay noted.

Ruiz, the San Luis junior, said these tours help her gauge what really interests her and what field she would like to work in.

The program also encourages students to be active in the community by joining organizations and their boards and stepping into leadership roles.

Julie Ott, RN, said the hospital's biggest concern on that day was that the students enjoyed themselves, not with lectures, but with hands-on experiences.

"Touching, feeling — that's what they remember. We hope they grow interested in the field and see all the things available here in our small community. We want them to realize they can train in the community and work here," Ott said.

"We also want them to see the technology that's in the community. A lot of people don't realize the technology we have here. We hope it strengthens their trust in our health-care system," she added.

"And building our own nurses and doctors, that would be kind of fun."

Information from: The Sun, http://www.yumasun.com