Decatur High School student Sarah Cho participates in an activity during the MultiCare Nurse Camp last week at Tacoma General Hospital. Cho was one of more than 100 area students to explore a career in nursing at the week-long camp. Courtesy Mark Klaas, for the Mirror

Area students learn the basics of nursing at annual camp in Tacoma

Sarah Cho wanted to check out a real hospital in action, not the one often seen on prime time television.

The Decatur High School student experienced the real deal last week as a participant at MultiCare Nurse Camp.

“The environment is very different than what you see in the shows,” said Cho, pausing between learning stations at Jackson Hall Medical Center on the Tacoma General Hospital campus last Friday. “I never really got to understand fully what responsibilities a registered nurse or perhaps a radiologist have – until now. … It was very eye-opening.

“On the shows they make it very dramatic,” Cho said. “I found out how much more calm the situation is here.”

More than 100 area high school students received a close look at careers in nursing at the week-long camp, now in its 14th year.

Students tried out medical devices, practiced suturing and performed “Skittlectomies” on mannequins. They toured operating rooms, emergency departments and patient rooms at MultiCare’s five area hospitals – Tacoma General Hospital, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, Allenmore Hospital and Auburn Medical Center.

The camp helped open the possibilities to Cho, who is considering a career as a surgeon.

Like Cho, Emily Huynh aspires to be a doctor and wanted to check out other career options at camp.

“I may become a surgeon … all the guts and gore,” said Emily, a junior-to-be at Kentridge High School.

“It was really interesting to see how much a nurse and doctor work,” she said of the camp experience. “I didn’t expect to feel the emotional aspect of being in a hospital. It doesn’t really hit you (until you see) how close the doctors and nurses work with patients, not only the patients but also their families during the time they stay at the hospital. I found that really powerful and interesting.”

Audrey Wood one day would like to help bring new life into the world, or possibly preserve it.

True to her compassionate nature, the 16-year-old home-schooled student from Auburn wants to become a registered nurse.

“It would be cool to see life happen in labor and delivery,” Wood said. “And the ER (emergency room) is pretty fast paced, and I like fast pace.”

The camp is designed to inspire and motivate teens to pursue a career in nursing or other health care-related fields by gaining some insight from the experiences they encountered throughout the week, said Sheri Mitchell, community outreach liaison for the MultiCare Center for Healthy Living and Health Equity.

Nursing continues to face a nationwide shortage as it recruits young talent to fill the void.

“(The camp) was set up to create that pipeline from high school to college to career,” Mitchell said. “We hope that by giving them exposure to the different health professions and, of course, nursing, that will help the nursing shortage.”

The camp is engaging, a big hit, Mitchell observed.

“It’s fun,” she said. “The payoff (from coordinating the camp) is seeing their faces light up, excited about learning the different medical professions.”

Although the five-day camp is free, entrance to the program is competitive because of the number of positions. Students are selected on the strength of their personal statement, transcripts and a recommendation letter from a science teacher.

In 2003, MultiCare realized the need to encourage a more diverse and well-prepared health work force and started the five-day camp the following year. 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 encourages and supports.

“I was very excited to have such a diverse group of high school students, eager to learn about nursing and allied health professions,” Mitchell said.

– MultiCare contributed to this story.

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