College serves as (camp)site for nursing knowledge

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The youthful mind often flits rapidly over many options when considering future career choices. But given the right information, a passing curiosity can turn into a long-term passion. Such passion is something that faculty and students at Medcenter One College of Nursing in Bismarck, ND, hoped to inspire in junior high school students during a recent education day.

Faculty and students at the college, who already attend career fairs and other programs in an effort to familiarize local students with the nursing market, decided to take the next step by holding their first Nurse Camp.

"We've heard about several programs and different ways of introducing students to nursing," says Mary Smith, MSN, RN, director of student services. "This was another way to introduce students to the possibilities within the nursing field at a younger age."

The result of the idea was that recently 21 wide-eyed junior high students from grades seven through nine joined the faculty and students for the day-long Nurse Camp at the college in November.

Prepping for nurse camp

To drum up interest in the camp, Smith says the college:

  • Sent a brochure about the camp to surrounding junior high schools
  • Arranged for nursing students to visit local junior high schools to talk about the camp
  • Placed an ad in the Friday Flyer, a publication delivered to local elementary schools, that would grab parents' attention

Smith says that nursing students' visits to schools were particularly well received. Some schools even recorded the presentations and played them over their loud speaker systems in all the classrooms.

Nurse Camp navigation

On the actual day, students made their way through six different skill stations where they were coached by junior and senior nursing students. From classroom to classroom the students went, experiencing several nursing environments and learning about needed skills within the nursing field.

"We had one station where one of our alumni from the operating room taught students scrub attire and infection control," says Smith. "They actually [learned about] sterile gowning, gloving, and shoe covers and how important it is."

Camp-goers also learned about pressure ulcer stages and how to clean and dress them. Smith says faculty attempted to keep the training as authentic as possible during this station, creating a pus-filled dressing with vanilla pudding.

At another station, students practiced taking vital signs and blood pressure. "We have a human simulator mannequin, so we powered that up so it breathes and has actual heart and lung sounds," Smith says.

But the newborn station was "everyone's favorite station," according to Smith. Here students worked with a mannequin, learning how to change diapers, bathe and swaddle newborns, and perform other general care.

Faculty and students also discussed how campers could become nurses, emphasizing the importance of a thorough knowledge of math, English, and science. "When you enter college, you are going to need to be able to read science literature and write papers," says Smith. "Nurses need to document what goes on inside their hospital. So [we] encouraged them in their studies now to be able to achieve what they want in the future."

The day ended with a tour of the hospital adjacent to the college, where the junior high students met the pharmacy's robot, and glimpsed the birth center and radiology unit.

Future campers wanted

Noting the optimistic responses from participants as well as the nursing students and faculty involved, Smith says the college is looking into holding other camps in the future. 

They are also considering targeting even younger students, such as sixth graders.

In the end, the college aims to stoke student's interest in the field and demonstrate that nursing is a flourishing profession, which will help alleviate the nation's nursing shortage.

"Everyone knows how much we need nurses and I think a lot of people have that thought to be a nurse at an early age," Smith says. "This gave us an opportunity to show them what nursing is like and reinforce that this is a good thing to do."