Aspiring nurses learn the ropes


The Mirror

Learning to pump a person’s stomach out was cool.

At least Jennifer Reilly thought so while attending the four-day Nurse Camp sponsored by MultiCare at Tacoma General Hospital. The nursing programs at Pacific Lutheran University and Tacoma Community College participated in the camp.

Reilly and three other students from the Federal Way area were part of the 30-member camp designed to motivate and educate the high schoolers about nursing and the healthcare industry.

The students became certified in CPR and first aid, learned how to suture (on practice dummies), monitor a patient’s vital signs and observe pediatrics and the emergency room. They also interviewed nurses and other medical specialists about what it would take to become nurses. It might sound like work, but the students didn’t think so.

“The kids were asking, on the first day, why the camp couldn’t be longer,” said Ethlyn Gibson, a registered nurse.

The camp was a good litmus test of whether a person is interested in nursing, said Tracy Cato, a student at Federal Way High School.

A nurse for 23 years, Gibson sees the high school students as the future of her industry. Nursing, and healthcare in general, have been reporting a shortage of people entering the field.

Nurses, on average, are in their mid-40s nationwide and many of them will be of retirement age in another decade, said Joan Horowitz of the American Nurses Association.

And it’s tough finding people to teach nursing students, said Lorri Sensel of MultiCare. She coordinates education opportunities for students studying to work in the healthcare community, except those becoming doctors.

Several reasons are cited for the nursing shortage, Horowitz said, including pay and working conditions. Also, women have historically dominated the profession, but there are more career options in the last 30 years than before for women. There were three male students at the camp.

Also, Americans are living longer and there are more of them reaching senior citizen status. The result is the demand for nurses is growing. That need along with the aging nursing population are also causing the shortage.

These campers will be tracked by the colleges and MultiCare for a while, Gibson said. They will get surveys about the camp and how they are progressing towards becoming nurses.

Having a nurse camp was Gibson’s idea, but not an original one. Her alma mater, Ursuline College in Ohio, has a similar camp. Gibson proposed the idea to her supervisor in 2003 and it was approved. Gibson and Sensel put the

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