Erica Jo Castro, left, 17, of Maple Valley, Wash., laughs with Ruth Flores, 18, of Tacoma, Wash., as she attempts to grab candy with an alligator clamp while learning about laparoscopic surgery Wednesday, July 11, 2018, during Nurse Camp at Tacoma General Hospital. (Photos by Patrick Hagerty)

Erica Jo Castro, left, 17, of Maple Valley, Wash., laughs with Ruth Flores, 18, of Tacoma, Wash., as she attempts to grab candy with an alligator clamp while learning about laparoscopic surgery Wednesday, July 11, 2018, during Nurse Camp at Tacoma General Hospital. (Photos by Patrick Hagerty)

Getting a hands-on opportunity, a real-life look

MultiCare’s annual Nurse Camp inspires future medical professionals

Nothing could have prepared Chloe Knox for what she was about to see in the intensive care unit.

Sedated, unconscious patients, and quick-thinking doctors and nurses trying to save them.

It was real, up close and swift for a teenager on a job-shadowing adventure at a local hospital.

“Going in I thought they would be in bad shape or in a lot of pain, but I didn’t really realize that a lot of them would be in such life-threatening situations, on the edge of life,” said Knox, one of 114 area high school students who participated in the MultiCare Nurse Camp, July 9-13. “That kind of shocked me.”

But it also engaged and inspired Knox to explore the career possibilities in nursing or specialists allied in the health care profession.

Nursing takes a certain kind of person. Knox, a junior-to-be at Auburn Riverside High School, says she could be that person working in an emergency room, helping doctors treat and save lives.

“Where you can make your own decisions but still be a nurse,” she said, “and without having to make the big decisions that doctors and surgeons have to make.”

Nurse Camp, now in its 15th year, provided a glimpse of what it’s like to perform in the wings of hospitals and clinics.

Knox and other students tried out medical devices and performed “Skittlectomies” on mannequins. They toured operating rooms, emergency departments and patient rooms at five of MultiCare’s Western Washington hospitals — Tacoma General Hospital, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, Allenmore Hospital and Auburn Medical Center.

Students rotated among hands-on stations such as IV starts, intubations, infection control, CPR and crutch training. They toured the OR, learning about high-tech surgeries, suturing and sterile techniques. They joined the emergency department where work stations involved cardiac rhythm; the airway; backboard/c-spine, forearm fiberglass splinting; wound irrigation/stapling; alcohol awareness (students wore “beer goggles”); a medic unit (students toured the inside of an ambulance); and other emergency preparedness.

“It’s been amazing, an awesome experience to expand my knowledge of the medical field … and see all these opportunities and see where you can go,” said Alyssa Price, a junior-to-be at Kentlake High School.

Like Knox, Price would like to become an ER nurse.

“It’s constantly moving, constantly going,” Price said. “You never know what’s going to come through the door.”

Price got a chance to interact with patients and job-shadow a nurse in ICU, where one patient she witnessed had his heart jolted to regain normal rhythm and another man was fighting infections and the onset of kidney failure.

Tiffany Nguyen, who will be a junior at Kentridge High School, said her family has always encouraged her to go into the medical field.

At the age of 16, Nguyen wasn’t sure what that meant, so she came to Nurse Camp to find out.

“This camp gave me the opportunity to see what nursing is like,” Nguyen said.

With a week’s worth of hands-on activities and highlights, one activity stood out as a clear favorite for Nguyen.

“The Skittlectomies because we worked as a team using the camera,” she said. “I liked the cooperation and using the candy was fun.”

Diana Che, a senior-to-be at Tahoma High School and a Running Start student at Green River College, is well on her way to becoming a nurse. “Since I was a kid it was always what I wanted to,” she said. “It was pretty inspiring seeing nurses making others feel better and healthier.”

Erica Jo Castro, 17, heard about Nurse Camp from a friend in math class at Tahoma High School.

“I always wanted to be in the medical field but never knew what I wanted to do,” Castro said. “I came to camp to get different perspectives.”

Castro’s job shadow was in the post anesthesia care unit (PACU) at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital. As she watched nurses care for patients after surgery, she started to think the PACU might be the place for her in the future.

“It’s something I’m interested in now,” she said. “I’ve always had a passion or taking care of people.”

MultiCare has long recognized the need to encourage a more diverse and well-prepared health care workforce, holding the first Nurse Camp in 2004 with 30 students. In addition to increasing ethnic and racial diversity in health care, a growing number of young men are pursuing careers in nursing, a trend MultiCare Nurse Camp leaders encourage and support.

“I was very excited to have such a diverse group of high school students, eager to learn about nursing and allied health professions,” said Sheri Mitchell, Nurse Camp program coordinator and community outreach liaison for the MultiCare Center for Healthy Living. “It is our hope by the end of the camp that the students will be inspired and motivated to pursue a career in health care.”

Nurse Camp students shared their experiences throughout the week on social media, using the hashtag #nursecamprocks.

MultiCare contributed to this story.

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