Students experience hands-on, skilled nursing at camp

Nursing is in the blood, so naturally John Bato-Borja and Sara Koenig are following their parents' footsteps to careers in the health care world.

Nursing is in the blood, so naturally John Bato-Borja and Sara Koenig are following their parents’ footsteps to careers in the health care world.

To get a better understanding of what it’s all about, Koenig and Bato-Borja last week joined 103 students from high schools throughout Western Washington and the South Puget Sound area at MultiCare Health System’s 13th annual Nurse Camp.

The five-day camp gives students a close, hands-on look at careers in today’s specialized nursing.

Students used medical devices, performed “Skittlectomies” on mannequins, practiced suturing pig legs, and shadowed skilled nurses and other health care professionals in various departments at MultiCare’s five hospitals – Tacoma General, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and Health Center, Good Samaritan, Allenmore and Auburn Medical Center.

Teenagers came away with a better understanding of the multi-faceted work nurses do.

“For the first time, in my life at least, I’m in the hospital environment … what it is like, what it smells like, what it feels like, what’s going on and how exciting it is,” said Bato-Borja, a senior-to-be at Kentwood High School. “For me, it was a really cool experience.”

Bato-Borja is ready to follow his parents – both registered nurses – into the health care profession. He plans to attend the University of Washington and become a nurse practitioner and perhaps specialize in something beyond that position.

“I’m just really interested in helping people in the medical field,” he said. “It’s really exciting to me, especially now with technology and (other advancements).”

Like Bato-Borja, Koenig is set on a career in medicine, first as a nurse and eventually as a pediatrician, joining the next generation of care providers. Her dad, Allen, is a medic for West Pierce Fire & Rescue.

“He never did try to persuade me, but once I got my heart set on nursing, I kind of thought, ‘I could go as far as I want with the medical field, so why not go as far as I can?'” said Koenig, a senior-to-be at Auburn Riverside High School.

To get there, Koenig intends to earn degrees in nursing and biology at the University of Portland and attend the UW School of Medicine.

“I want to be a pediatrician, and then I might sub-specialize from there,” she added.

Critical shortage of nurses

Koenig and Bato-Borja’s skills will be greatly needed. There is a critical shortage of nurses and specialists today, said Sheri Mitchell, community outreach liaison for the MultiCare Center for Healthy Living and Health Equity, and Nurse Camp coordinator. She attributes the shortage to a number of reasons.

“Baby boomers are retiring. There’s more availability of positions, and people are going different places,” Mitchell said. “Nurses are not staying (put in one place). Retention is harder to hold onto. … Some of the nurses coming out of school are traveling around, plus, they’re getting more money. There’s more competition.”

The camp has proven to be a good recruiting tool over the years, giving young minds a preview of challenging and rewarding work in the health care field.

“It is our hope that the students will be inspired and motivated to pursue a career in nursing,” Mitchell said. “Our mission during Nurse Camp is for the students to gain some insight and learn from each experience they encountered during the week.”

Anlorey Alvarado, 16, enjoyed Nurse Camp because there was something for everyone. Alvarado, a junior at Kent-Meridian High School, wants to be an NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) nurse one day. She was in the NICU herself as an infant and wants to provide the same comfort and care her mom received.

“I think everybody (should) do something in line with their interests,” Alvarado said. “And I love working with kids.”

Auburn’s Jessica Chebotar, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School, applied for Nurse Camp because she wanted a closer, hands-on look at the world of nursing. She volunteers at MultiCare Auburn Medical Center and is taking prerequisites for nursing at Highline College through Running Start.

“I wanted to actually get to see nurses interacting with patients,” said Chebotar, 17.

For one of her job shadows during Nurse Camp, Chebotar followed a nurse making the rounds with patients in the medical-surgical unit at Tacoma General.

“It was fun, but labor and delivery is more of what I want to do,” she said. “I feel like (labor and delivery) is more of a joyful thing.”

To encourage a more diverse and well-prepared health work force, MultiCare began its first Nurse Camp in 2003, graduating 30 students. The camp has grown in popularity every year since, with an increasing number of young men considering nursing careers, too. In total, 900 students have graduated from Nurse Camp.

Nurse Camp is free to the students. In addition to spending time in departments at MultiCare’s hospitals, students visited local colleges and universities and participated in hands-on rotations.

More than 50 MultiCare staff members and volunteers and approximately 20 sponsors from the local community supported this year’s camp.

Students shared their experiences on social media with the hashtag #nursecamprocks.

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– MultiCare staff contributed to this report.



Sara Koenig, of Auburn, and other students listen intently to instruction during MultiCare Health System’s Nurse Camp last week. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter