You’re never too young to start learning about nursing. Lots of kids play doctor or nurse with their friends, but a group of lucky middle schoolers in Iowa recently had the opportunity to get some real-world experience under their belts. UnityPoint Health in Des Moines, Iowa created a camp designed to get young kids interested in nursing as a way of combating the state’s ongoing nursing shortage.
Fifty-nine students headed to the hospital’s Simulation Center over the summer for two days of intensive training. Campers got to perform a series of nursing activities, including vital checks and bedside care. They even became certified in first aid and CPR by the end.
Denise Cundy, BSN, RN, chief nurse executive for UnityPoint Health, said 15 staff members were involved in the planning.
“We’re targeting 7th and 8th graders who are as they’re moving into high school getting them thinking about what classes they should take,” Cundy said, “So really trying to get them to understand what nursing is and interested in the profession of nursing or healthcare.”
The simulation center features exam rooms filled with the same equipment you’d find in the hospital.
The organizers set out to develop a “futuristic thinking” mindset among the kids to help them prepare for what the industry might look like ten years down the line.
“As we think about workforce strategies, [it’s not] just what do we need right now, but what do we need for the future as well?” she said. “That was really the impetus.”
Cundy said the first group was mainly comprised of children from the system’s employees. They also invited several children from the public to participate in tailor-made exercises, which were popular among campers, parents, and staff alike.
“What really filled my bucket as the chief nurse executive was seeing our own nurses so passionate about sharing their love for their profession,” she said. “And just seeing the fun and excitement, of course, on the campers, but it was really that desire to elevate our professions and just share it with others.”
They staff hopes to mentor the kids over the years in hopes that they will eventually join the ranks.
“We’ll be tracking names and hopefully we’ll be keeping in touch with them even after the camp and in years to come if we’re able to and really try to bring them into the profession and organization as well,” Cundy said.
Considering the success of the first outing, the hospital is still trying to decide how many sessions it will offer going forward, but there is already a waitlist for next year.
“[We want to] bring those participants from this year that are interested back next year to do some advanced type of work, like actually shadowing on the floor, and those kinds of things,” Cundy said. “And we’re also tossing around an idea to do maybe a second career camp, so for someone who’s in a different career looking for a change, or for that person who always wanted to go on healthcare, but they never did.”