PASCAGOULA -- Kelsey Smith, a senior at Moss Point High School who wants to be an anesthesiologist, spent time Tuesday learning to intubate a patient.
It took a few tries, but then, success. She was soon pumping air into the lungs of the simulation dummy, instructed by registered nurse Kim Henderson, vice president of Emergency Room Services for Singing River Health System.
Smith was one of about 1,300 students expected during the SRHS Healthcare Career Fair held Tuesday and today at the B.E. "Mac" McGinty Jackson County Civic Center.
The fair started 12 years ago as a walk-through at Singing River and Ocean Springs hospitals, said Heath Thompson, SRHS vice president of ancillary services. "Big things start small," he said. "It's been wildly popular it's one of our marquee events."
Students from 25 schools in eight counties, including the Mobile area, visit more than 20 booths that have demonstrations and activities in every aspect of health care.
Geared mostly toward high school students, the fair has added a session for eighth-graders at the request of teachers. Whether playing a game at the radiology booth or counting pills in the pharmacy, some are getting their first look at health care careers.
"We're cultivating that interest," Thompson said. "For many people, it can be a defining moment for them and that makes it worth it."
And it's important for the health care industry. With 2,700 employees in its health system, Singing River wants "the local talent to get interested in health care, get their degrees, and come back and work with us," he said.
It's important for students, too.
"We want to train our students for high-wage careers," said Barbara Fowler, career and technical director for Stone County School District in Wiggins. The district brought 73 health sciences students to the fair Tuesday, in its fourth year to participate. "This is an opportunity for them to see all these systems at one site."
Cathy Hunt, a health sciences teacher at Stone High, said the fair allows students to see the full range of career options in health care -- that it's more than doctors and nurses. They see there's an array of technicians and other skilled workers.
They learn about careers they can go into that don't require a four-year college degree, Fowler said.
Biloxi High School junior Taylor Cabrera, however, plans to go to medical school. She wants to be a doctor in obstetrics.
Thompson said over the years he's had hospital employees tell him they became interested in health care by attending the fair.