MultiCare Nurse Camp to give high school students hands-on experience in health care

Have you ever seen a “Skittlectomy” performed in a hospital operating room?

Using surgical tools to remove colorful Skittles candy from a mannequin will be one of the hands-on lessons for 97 students from 36 high schools during MultiCare Health System’s ninth-annual Nurse Camp that runs July 16-20 in Tacoma.

During the five-day camp that gives students an inside look at careers in health care, students willspend time in various departments at all four of MultiCare’s hospitals, visit six local colleges and universities, and participate in rotations throughout the hospital.

“These local high school students are extremely motivated and interested in health careers,” said Liesl Santkuyl, Director of Nurse Camp 2012. “Several of them will be taking care of me and my family members in the not-too-distant future. I am always amazed at what bright, enthusiastic and motivated students attend Nurse Camp. We are lucky to have such talented people in our community.”

Throughout the program, students will shadow professional nurses and health care providers as they care for patients in the Emergency Department, intensive care unit, surgical care areas, inpatient units and allied health areas at Tacoma General HospitalAllenmore Hospital and Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, as well as Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup.

During a full week of hands-on health career experiences, students will:

  • Learn to suture, cast, read heart rhythms, conduct C-Spine immobilizations, and learn about emergency preparedness in an emergency services rotation.
  • Remove candy from a mannequin with surgical tools. The procedure is called a “Skittlectomy.”
  • Visit the OR while in “bunny suits” to ensure infection control standards are maintained.
  • Learn first aid skills, CPR and other health care assessment skills, using stethoscopes to listen to heart and breath sounds.
  • Participate in scenarios designed to test their newfound medical skills.
  • Work on understanding the anatomy of the heart by examining a pig’s heart in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit
  • Visit the Mary Bridge pediatric Emergency Department to experience boarding and immobilizing young children.
  • Provide community service to support programs at Mary Bridge and Tree House.

This year the theme is “giving back” and the students will have several activities that allow them to show their service mentality. The students will learn about organ donation, Tree House, and theMended Little Hearts programs. These programs help patients at MultiCare’s hospitals and clinics.

Speakers include a visiting physician, Dr. Federico Cruz (former director of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department), who will talk about helping those with diabetes in Nicaragua, and Dr. Claire Spain-Remy, who was promoted this month to Senior Vice President of MultiCare Medical Associates at MultiCare Health System.

MultiCare Health System’s annual Nurse Camp for high school students throughout Pierce, south King, Kitsap and Thurston counties continues to thrive in its ninth year as nearly 200 students applied for the program in Tacoma, Puyallup, and throughout the south Puget Sound area.

MultiCare realized the need to encourage a more diverse and well-prepared health work force. In 2004 it began supporting a weeklong free day camp for area students. The first Nurse Camp graduated 30 students. Last year, 96 attended and graduated. Over 600 have attended the past eight years. MultiCare is currently conducting a long-term study of how many former Nurse Camp students are practicing in health careers. As well as increasing ethnic and racial diversity in health care, an increasing number of young men are considering careers in nursing, a trend Nurse Camp encourages and supports.

A recent report by The American Hospital Association stated, “Improving diversity will not only help solve the work force crisis, but also enhance the cultural competencies of hospitals, making them more responsive to the communities’ needs.” The class selected this year, as well as in past years, is reflective of the diverse surrounding community.

“The students grow exponentially through these experiences,” said Gloria Ziegler, MultiCare Nurse Camp Coordinator. “It’s very inspiring to our health professionals to see students that are so motivated and eager to enter a health career. We remember that enthusiasm and desire to make a difference that inspired all of us.”

To be selected, students were required to write an essay about their interest in the nursing or health care profession. Many essays included personal experiences of how the care of a nurse or health care provider had a direct impact on the students and their family.

The week prior to Nurse Camp, the students will receive a Nurse Camp ID hospital badge, a set of hospital scrubs donated by Standard Textile and a stethoscope donated by Owens & Minor. The week of activities will culminate with a graduation reception complete with certificates and a pinning by Kate Bechtold, Senior Vice President and Chief Nurse Executive at MultiCare.

For more information, visit or call Liesl Santkuyl, Community Outreach Liaison, at 253-227-9511.

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