8 Dec 2017

Camp Caring - Nursing Camp connects kids to college and careers

Camp Caring - Nursing Camp connects kids to college and careers

Author: Wings  /  Categories: Campus, Wings, Health  / 

Over several balmy summer days, when most high school students were enjoying a break from the classroom, seven White Swan High School students voluntarily woke up early and hopped on a bus for the 20-minute trip to Heritage University for its first annual Nursing Camp. This immersive experience gave the students a chance to learn firsthand what a career in health care might look like. By the end of their time at Heritage, they had learned to take temperatures, blood pressures and pulses; measure blood glucose levels and interpret the results; study bacteria under a microscope; and work with the university’s simulation (SIM) mannequins to diagnose and treat asthma—and they became CPR-certified.

The Nursing Camp took place over four days in July. It was funded through a grant from the Yakima Valley Community Foundation, and Heritage faculty volunteered their time and donated the supplies and equipment. Four Heritage students served as camp mentors, helping the teenagers through the daily exercises. This was the first year in what will be an ongoing collaborative program between Heritage and White Swan.

Nursing StudentsEvery morning, the students were picked up at White Swan High School and driven the 16 miles to the Toppenish campus so they could get a taste of what it would be like to be a Heritage nursing student. Each was given a set of scrubs to wear, just like their college mentors. Their days were filled with both lectures and lab time. Guest speakers who work in the industry shared with them what it is really like to be a nurse and the nuances of working in different disciplines, such as in the military, or in geriatrics or pediatrics. During their lab time they learned some of the practical skills that Heritage nursing students learn when they enter the program, and they practiced their skills in the SIM lab. They even learned about some of the more difficult things that nurses have to deal with, such as death and dying.

The camp wasn’t just a look at nursing, it was an introduction to what the students’ lives would be like in college. The teens toured the campus, visiting the library and the Arts and Sciences Center. They ate their lunch in the Eagles Café and even took part in a science experiment that had them gathering samples from around campus to use in a microbiology project. Meetings with admissions and financial aid counselors helped them think about what they needed to do now, as high school students, to prepare for themselves both academically and financially for the transition to college.

"The Nursing Camp was an inspiration to our kids. It showed them there’s more to the world than what they can see and it’s possible to achieve lives of success," said White Swan High School Principal Joey Castilleja.

Shared Lessons for Mentees and Mentors,

Nursing CampersThe experiences of the summer Nursing Camp didn’t just impact the high school students who participated. Heritage junior Karen Mendoza, who served as one of the mentors, pointed out that the camp was as much an education for the Heritage students as it was for the teens.

“It was such a unique experience to be on the other end of the student spectrum,” said Mendoza. “It made me realize how true it is that in health care you are always a teacher and a student.”

Mendoza said that one of the biggest lessons she got from her experience was how she will need to adjust her communication style to match those of her patients when she is a practicing nurse so that they will clearly understand her and fully engage with their treatment.

“I consider myself to still be a young person, but I had to change my perspective when working with the high school students,” she said. “Our goal was to encourage and motivate them to pursue this profession, but we couldn’t do that by simply talking to them. We had to really immerse them in the discipline of nursing to grab their attention. I’ll never forget that sometimes you have to do things differently to be heard.”

From Camp to Academy

The Heritage Nursing Camp is the first phase of a new program being developed to encourage White Swan students to see themselves as college bound early in their academic careers. Called the Pre-Nursing Academy, it is a collaboration that will open up to kids as early as their freshman year. It provides mentorship with Heritage faculty and students, many of whom share similar cultural backgrounds with the high school students, and through the emphasis on nursing, exposes them to the wide array of health care fields as a means to develop career exploration and awareness.

The academy has been a dream for Dr. Christina Nyirati,Heritage’s BSN program director and chair of the Department of Nursing, for several years.

“One of the most important reasons we mentor White Swan students in health sciences is that the ever-growing demand for highly skilled nurses here in the Yakima Valley is so great,” explained Nyirati. “We nurture and inspire these students to have a sense of self-efficacy … to foster their belief that they can learn and perform well enough to earn a bachelor’s degree in any program that they choose to pursue.”

Instilling this belief in their ability to succeed is a key part of the program—and a fundamental part of Heritage’s mission—because less than 2% of White Swan residents have a bachelor’s degree. That makes it quite likely that a majority of these teens will be the first generation in their families to attend college.

“We want all of our young people in our communities to know that they have the capacity to do great things. That they can set their goals high and strive to meet them,” said Nyirati. “With a little planning and preparation, they will graduate from high school prepared to go into any BSN program and, ultimately, strengthen the workforce by connecting to a community when they otherwise would not have the opportunity to do so.”

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