Students Get a Glimpse into Nursing World

Thirty-six teens representing every high school in Solano County attended the 13th annual NorthBay Nurse Camp, June 20 to 23. Selected from a field of more than 75 applications, the students spent two days on the VacaValley Hospital campus and two days at NorthBay Medical Center, learning what it takes to be a nurse.

This year, Nurse Camp was led by Laurel Nielson, R.N., and Amy Ciraulo, R.N. Many NorthBay nurses from several hospital departments generously shared their time and talents to give the teens a realistic experience.

One of the most popular events was a visit to NorthBay Medical Center’s surgery department, where the teens donned sterile garb to enter a surgical suite, examined items under a microscope and practiced laparoscopic surgery on a melon. Nurse Ambassador Abbie Hoag, R.N., watched as two teens’ faces lit up in amazement and delight as one successfully pulled a melon seed from the “body.”

“It’s just unprecedented that teens get the chance to handle equipment like this,” she said. “I’m so proud to be part of an organization that supports opportunities like Nurse Camp.” In addition to teaching at Nurse Camp, Abbie hosts the Nursing Club at Will C. Wood High School in Vacaville.

While nurses with up to 30 years of experience and more shared their knowledge and love of nursing, one special nursing student was on hand to share her knowledge of nursing school today.

Alyssa Haddox, 23, a former teen volunteer and 2009 Nurse Camp graduate, will soon earn her bachelor’s degree from CSU Bakersfield. She is the granddaughter of Nurse Camp founder and retired ICU nurse Mary Hempen, R.N.; the daughter of labor and delivery nurse Denice Haddox, R.N.; and the niece of obstetric unit nurse Amy Ciraulo, R.N. She hopes to be the third generation of nurses working at NorthBay Medical Center.

“My goal is to become an ICU nurse,” Alyssa said. “I like the critical thinking involved and the twists and turns in caring for seriously ill patients. And, you can spend more time with the patient and their family.”

While Alyssa knew at a young age that she was destined to become a nurse, most of the nurse campers were still exploring their options. It was the goal of the Nurse Camp organizers to expose them to as many different nursing experiences as possible.

On the first day, the students jumped right into hands-on experiences as they learned to suture wounds, give injections (to oranges), start IVs (on simulation models) and practice CPR. On the second day, spent in the VacaValley Hospital Emergency Department, the teens learned about casting and splinting by applying soft casts to each other’s arms and witnessed a mock trauma. Later that day, they got a look at emergency medicine in the field, thanks to REACH medical helicopter and the Vacaville Fire Department.

Other events included a visit to the intensive care unit, where they learned about stroke patients and practiced using the lift equipment. The final day was all about babies in NorthBay Medical Center’s Women and Children’s Services department.

Friday ended much too soon for the 36 campers who were eager for more. They shared their feelings about the program during a final course evaluation.

“This year’s students were very smart, very engaged and very enthusiastic,” said Donna Dabeck, manager of nursing recruitment and retention. “They had expected four days of lectures, and they were very surprised that the camp was so hands-on.

“Some students said the week had cemented their commitment to working in the medical field. Others said they had changed their mind about what field of nursing they wanted to practice after seeing the diversity nursing offered. And all of the students lauded the nurses for being so open and welcoming.”

The NorthBay Nurse Academy began in 2003 as a way to reach out to high school students and expose them to careers in nursing. Nurses volunteer as Nurse Ambassadors and host nursing clubs in several local schools. Many teens who attend Nurse Camp also participate in their school’s nursing club.

Today, several former campers are now registered nurses working throughout the country.