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Nurse Camp Celebrates 15 Years!

Posted: July 10, 2019

A lot can happen in 15 years.

Just ask the graduates of the NorthBay Nurse Camp program. Or ask any of the many NorthBay Healthcare nurses who’ve operated the program — as well as the Nurse Camp Ambassador program —  through the years.

Dozens of them came together June 17 for the first-ever NorthBay Nurse Camp Reunion, celebrating the program’s first 15 years.

Also reuniting were Nurse Camp Founders, Maureen Allain, R.N., and retired nurse Mary Hempen: colleagues for years and best friends for life.

“It all began in with email from Coletta Ciccarelli, asking if there were any nurses interested in bringing the nursing career to the local high schools. I immediately answered with an absolute YES,” said Mary.

At the time the industry appeared headed for a major nursing shortage. Mary swiftly recruited Maureen to join her as a campus ambassador.

“We brainstormed and brought our idea for Nurse Camp to Collette. Our goal was to have an educational experience that would be packed with fun and new experiences for campers. It took about five months to get those ideas into action.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

The first nurse camp was three days long and free for participants.

“We started with our Nurse Ambassador Clubs, but didn’t have enough applicants,” remembered Mary. “Maureen and I got busy and recruited every teenager we knew. Finally, they came up with 25 students who were willing to commit to the camp.

“They came in jeans and T-shirts that year. Oh, how it has changed,” said Mary.

Now Nurse Camp lasts four days every June. This year 110 applied, some even outside of Solano County, seeking one of the 36 nurse camp spots. Applicants pay a $100 fee, although there are scholarships available. The fee helps cover the cost of NorthBay scrubs and meals.

Since its inception, 468 students have completed Nurse Camp.

Even better? Many have gone on to have careers in the medical field. Of the group at the reunion, four were registered nurses, a healthy number were either in nursing school or getting ready for it, and even more held related positions in the medical field.

The pair thanked nurses Lauren Nielson, Donna Dabeck, Amy Ciraulo and others who have stepped up to keep it going.

“Nurse Camp has also had an impact on the nurses and staff who participate,” said Maureen. “We tend to work in our own departments and have never had the opportunity to work alongside nurses from other units. These programs are helping us cross bridges and make connections. And improved nurse-to-nurse interactions in turn helps us to better care for our patients.”