Eve Feller, of Washington High School in Parkland, left, and Tatyana So, of Kent, right, share a laugh as they “gown up” at MultiCare Nurse Camp on July 19. The five-day camp, now in its 14th year, is designed to get high school students interested in health care careers, particularly nursing. COURTESY PHOTO, Patrick Hagerty

Local teens get hands-on experience at Nurse Camp

They share the same last name and compassionate spirit, but Emily and Marian Huynh are not at all related.

Just fast friends who met at MultiCare Nurse Camp last week.

Emily, a junior-to-be at Kentridge High School, and Marian, a senior-to-be at Kent-Meridian, are exploring the possibility of becoming specialists in the health care world.

Camp provided some insight into some of the rewarding careers.

“I may become a surgeon … all the guts and gore,” Emily said with a grin, pausing between learning stations at MultiCare Nurse Camp inside the Jackson Hall Medical Center on the Tacoma General Hospital campus last Friday.

“It was really interesting to see how much a nurse and doctor work,” she said of the camp experience. “I didn’t expect to feel the emotional aspect of being in a hospital. It doesn’t really hit you (until you see) how close the doctors and nurses work with patients, not only the patients but also their families during the time they stay at the hospital. I found that really powerful and interesting.”

More than 100 area high school students received a close look at careers in nursing at the week-long camp, now in its 14th year.

Students tried out medical devices, practiced suturing and performed “Skittlectomies” on mannequins. They toured operating rooms, emergency departments and patient rooms at MultiCare’s five area hospitals – Tacoma General Hospital, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, Allenmore Hospital and Auburn Medical Center.

The camp helped open the possibilities to Marian, who is considering a career as an occupational therapist. Her mother is a pharmacy technician.

Working hands-on tasks with medical professionals was enlightening to Marian.

“You can actually try it,” she said of the methods and techniques. “They explain it, but you really don’t understand it unless you try it yourself.”

She also learned to carefully check her work.

“You have to make sure you’re not doing anything wrong because just one little mistake can cause something really big,” she said.

Like Marian, Tatyana So is interested in physical therapy.

“I want to explore everything,” said So, a 17-year-old senior-to-be at Kent-Meridian.

After getting kicked in the knee swimming, she’s been through some PT herself.

The experience sparked her interest in the career. She shadowed a physical therapy assistant in rehab at Tacoma General at camp last week.

“It was cool. I learned I didn’t want to do geriatrics,” she said, laughing. “It was interesting seeing different aspects of PT.”

Aside from the job shadow, So enjoyed the hands-on activities such as the “Skittlectomies” and IV starts on mannequins.

“It’s stuff I’d seen on TV but never done myself,” she said.

The camp is designed to inspire and motivate teens to pursue a career in nursing or other health care-related fields by gaining some insight from the experiences they encountered throughout the week, said Sheri Mitchell, community outreach liaison for the MultiCare Center for Healthy Living and Health Equity.

Nursing continues to face a nationwide shortage as it recruits young talent to fill the void.

“(The camp) was set up to create that pipeline from high school to college to career,” Mitchell said. “We hope that by giving them exposure to the different health professions and, of course, nursing, that will help the nursing shortage.”

The camp is engaging, a big hit, Mitchell observed.

“It’s fun,” she said. “The payoff (from coordinating the camp) is seeing their faces light up, excited about learning the different medical professions.”

Although the five-day camp is free, entrance to the program is competitive because of the number of positions. Students are selected on the strength of their personal statement, transcripts and a recommendation letter from a science teacher.

In 2003, MultiCare realized the need to encourage a more diverse and well-prepared health work force and started the five-day camp the following year. In addition to increasing ethnic and racial diversity in health care, a growing number of young men are pursuing careers in nursing, a trend MultiCare Nurse Camp encourages and supports.

“I was very excited to have such a diverse group of high school students, eager to learn about nursing and allied health professions,” Mitchell said.

MultiCare contributed to this story.

Emily Huynh, who will be a junior at Kentridge High School in the fall, observes a CPR/first aid demonstration during Multicare Nurse Camp last Friday. Huynh said she is considering becoming a surgeon. MARK KLAAS, Kent Reporter

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