TACOMA, WA — MultiCare Health System’s Nurse Camp goes virtual this year to adapt to the pandemic conditions while still providing students with a unique opportunity to learn about health care careers.
For the last 16 years, MultiCare’s Nurse Camp brought South Sound high school students to the organization’s Tacoma campus in July to give them in-depth exposure to nursing and other health care professions. This work is critical to building the next generation of health care workers who can serve our communities. The response to the coronavirus only highlights the need to grow our health care workforce.
Usually based at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital, this year the program will take place online, July 13 through 17, with much of the programming being provided through the online platform WebEx.
“With school interrupted and plans canceled during the pandemic, we felt it necessary to provide a health care experience as close to our traditional hands-on learning experience through virtual platform,” said Nancy Thompkins, RN, community outreach liaison for MultiCare’s Center of Health Equity and Wellness, and one of the coordinators for the Nurse Camp program.
This year, 104 students will attend — 47 students from Pierce County, 24 from South King County, 20 from East Pierce County, eight from Thurston County, and six from Kitsap County.
There will be some changes to the traditional camp itinerary given its virtual nature this year, including a virtual seminar with a handpicked panel — composed of a respiratory therapist, a physician’s assistant, a nurse, a military officer, various college program spokespeople, and a child-life specialist — instead of the two, in-person job shadow opportunities from previous years. During the seminar, students will be able to ask questions and talk with the panelists about their career paths and experiences.
One thing that won’t change is that there will be plenty of games. Embracing the move to the digital space, Nurse Camp will implement a quiz-based game called Kahoots, where students can buzz in on their phones to answer questions. Students will also receive kits in the mail to enhance their hands-on learning experience in a virtual symposium, which includes items to practice splinting and gowning and gloving and much more.
Originally developed to help address Washington’s nursing shortage, the program has evolved to include diversifying our region’s health care workforce and exposing kids to various professions in health care — careers many of the students may not have known existed. While nursing is still a focus, the camp also spotlights other fields of work, including surgery technicians and anesthesiologists.
“There’s so much more that the health care sector has to offer career-wise,” said Sheri Mitchell, RN, a community outreach liaison for MultiCare’s Center of Health Equity and Wellness and a coordinator for the Nurse Camp program. “This program is not just focused on the roles of doctors or a nurse. MultiCare’s Nurse Camp program gives the student the opportunity to be introduced to a variety of health care professions such as child-life specialist or a social worker.”
Every role is important, Mitchell noted. “It’s about the team-based care that we as health care professionals provide emphasizing patient centered care — we cannot look at it as a hierarchy, because that’s when we stop focusing on the patient.”
Outreach into the community is critical for the program’s success. “It’s not just about reaching the students who are already excelling in math,” added Mitchell. “It’s about reaching students in alternative schools and programs who may not even be thinking of a career in health care as an option.”
Another important goal of community outreach is to diversify the workforce so providers better reflect the populations they serve — in other words, helping to ensure patients get treated by providers and health care professionals that reflect their communities.
Anauncia Willis, a recent graduate of Stadium High School in Tacoma, said she was eager to apply to Nurse Camp after a friend who participated last year said she loved it. Willis, who has seen the impact of drug misuse in her community, wants to provide care and resources to people who need support. As the oldest sister of eight siblings, she dreams of working in pediatric care.
“I’m super excited to be able to attend Nurse Camp,” said Willis. “I have been waiting to do it for a while. I am not sure what to expect with it being virtual, but I’m still eager to see what’s in store.”
More information on MultiCare can be found at multicare.org.