Auburn students get a glimpse of their future at MultiCare Nursing Camp

Leonna Olmo, left, and Emily Hamm, right, close a practice laceration on a pig’s foot during MultiCare’s Nurse Camp. Olmo and Hamm are Auburn High School students. - Photo Courtesy Russ Carmack
Leonna Olmo, left, and Emily Hamm, right, close a practice laceration on a pig’s foot during MultiCare’s Nurse Camp. Olmo and Hamm are Auburn High School students.
— image credit: Photo Courtesy Russ Carmack

Emily Hamm is all too familiar with doctors and nurses closely managing her condition.

And because of that good working relationship, Hamm is doing quite well as a healthy teen and compliant diabetic. It also has spurred her desire to return the favor and ultimately enter the health care field.

"I've met amazing nurses and doctors throughout my medical experience," said Hamm, an ambitious and bright senior-to-be at Auburn High School. "I just really want to pay it forward and pay it back."

Hamm joined other high school students to learn more about the growing and diversified profession at the MultiCare Health System's eighth annual Nurse Camp in Tacoma.

Nearly 100 students from 43 South Sound schools, including Auburn, participated in the camp, which provided hands-on exercises and close looks at many careers in specialized nursing. During last week's five-day camp, students handled da Vinci robotic surgery surgery equipment, performed "Skittlectomies," witnessed open-heart surgeries and job-shadowed nurses and health care professionals.

The experience was powerful and real, providing teens with a vivid picture of what is required to enter a health career.

"We have several objectives, and one of them is that they do understand what they need to do to prepare for nursing and other health professions as well," said Lieisl Santkuyl, community outreach liaison and Nurse Camp coordinator for the MultiCare Health System. "We want to inspire kids, but we are also inspired by them as a staff. We see that youthful enthusiasm and idealism, and it reminds us of why we went (into the health care profession).

"We want them to be excited so that when they look down the road ... they are really motivated to continue and remember, 'This is my goal and this is what I look like. I know I can get there.'"

Nursing programs are intensely competitive, and so were the qualifications to make the camp, which attracted more than 300 applicants, according to Penny Larkins, a volunteer coordinator for Good Samaritan Hospital.

"The strength of the applicants is incredible," Larkins said. "These kids are amazing."

According to industry leaders, the health care profession is projecting a nursing shortage in the years ahead.

Margarita Bolshakova wants to help. The recent Auburn Mountainview High graduate is pursuing her associate degree in nursing and plans to apply to an RN program. One day she hopes to work in pediatrics.

"I've always wanted to help people and work with children," Bolshakova said during a break at camp.

The nurse camp provides a preview, reinforcing college and training course requirements and the commitment necessary to succeed. It also stresses team-building work.

"I learned that being a nurse is not an easy job," said Leonna Olmo, a senior-to-be at Auburn High. "I also learned that I'm going to be a pretty good nurse, probably."

Olmo, whose grandmother and aunt are nurses, wants to work in the emergency room one day.

"I like how fast paced it is," she said.

Students removed candy from a mannequin with surgical tools and discovered how to suture. They observed simulated and live surgery on closed-circuit TV, learned CPR, reviewed first-aid skills and acquired other health care assessment skills.

In addition, students were trained to be advocates for important issues affecting the health care industry.

"They were treated like professionals so they could feel like professionals," Santkuyl said. "They visualized themselves in that role, and that's a powerful motivator."

For many students, it was a memorable and engaging experience.

"I learned what I wanted to do with the rest of my life," Hamm said, "and how to get there."

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