Weeklong experience provides taste of college life.
Although nursing is consistently rated as one of the most trusted professions, the public doesn’t fully understand the roles and responsibilities of nurses and the nursing profession. Students who declare nursing as a major when entering college do so for a variety of reasons, and they frequently do not have a realistic picture of what nursing truly entails. As nurse faculty members at a small private university, we developed a summer camp to teach high school students about nursing and provide them with the opportunity to experience nursing school and college life.
The camp, which focuses on academics, the spirit and traditions of the university, faith and learning, and campus life, is designed for students entering their junior or senior year of high school. In classrooms and simulation labs, participants are introduced to core concepts of nursing, and additional learning continues outside those settings through small-group discussions, projects, and college-life experiences.
The inspiration for our summer nursing camp came from an engineering and computer science camp offered at a nearby university. After meeting with the camp coordinator to learn more about the program’s structure, we conducted a search for other nursing-camp offerings and found that they ranged from day camps to a two-month immersive experience. Our findings validated the need to provide high school students with an academic opportunity to learn about nursing while being immersed in the college environment. We presented our idea to the dean of our nursing college, who approved our proposal.
Our proposal, which outlined key requirements for a successful camp, recommended the summer of 2013 for the program’s implementation. Giving ourselves an initial goal of enrolling 24 campers, we met regularly to ensure progress on our action plan. We identified work to be accomplished and assigned responsibilities, including the following:
Arranging for food, housing, consent forms, etc.
Developing a budget
Creating and distributing brochures
Setting up a website
Designing applications, release forms, press releases, etc.
Recruiting camp personnel
Selecting and hiring student leaders to assist
Ordering supplies and equipment such as stethoscopes, T-shirts, and awards
Reserving classroom, lab, and simulation space
Thirteen students—12 female and one male—attended the first Explore: Cru Nursing Summer Camp
, held 9-13 June 2013. After checking into a residence hall on Sunday afternoon, campers participated in an “icebreaker” activity that was facilitated by nursing student leaders. After a cookout dinner, the evening ended with a group activity.
Each day included classroom instruction and lab experiences that focused on the cardiac system. Campers performed basic cardiac assessments, took vital signs, and learned about health promotion. Students also participated in daily recreational activities.
Each evening included a group activity and assignments to prepare for the next day. Assisted by student nurse leaders, we divided the campers into small groups to complete projects related to the cardiovascular system and cardiovascular health. Participants worked on projects during the evenings and presented the results to their families on the final day of camp. For campers able to stay an extra day, we offered an optional cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) class on Friday.
For our second camp, held 15-21 June 2014—a full week—the number of applicants doubled, and 17 campers, all female, registered. The daily schedule was similar to the 2013 camp but included additional skill labs and simulation experiences. This time, all campers participated in the CPR class. Learning from our first experience, we also adjusted group assignments to allow participants to choose from a range of health-related topics.
To provide for possible mid-course correction, an informal evaluation was made halfway through the week, with adjustments based on feedback. For the final assessment, campers completed a survey at the end.
Revision plans for future camps are minimal. Although we would like to serve a larger number of high school students, we have found that the small-group approach enriches learning. Accordingly, future enrollments will be limited to 18 campers. Anticipated curriculum revisions include addition of some pulmonary and cardiac pathophysiology, as well as a pulmonary-focused assessment, and group presentation topics will return to concentrating on a topic related to the health systems presented.
The number of inquiries that we receive and the positive response to the camp reinforce the value of offering this type of activity to high school students. One of the goals of the camp is to help students determine whether nursing is the appropriate career choice for them. Feedback from participants tells us we are meeting this goal.
Tracy L. Booth, MSEd, BSN, RN, is associate professor, Scott and White College of Nursing, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, in Belton, Texas, USA. Kelda McMullen-Fix, MSN, RN, CEN, CHSE, is assistant professor and director of simulated learning at the same college.