What it takes to be a nurse

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Hoping to see what a career in nursing is really like, 20 girls from around Southeast Missouri spent last week in that role.

They started their morning a little later than most shifts, but by 8 a.m., they were making the rounds at Southeast Missouri Hospital and didn't finish until close to 4:30 p.m.

The inaugural group of students enrolled in the nursing camp at Southeast Missouri Hospital lived with host families who were hospital employees, spent several days rotating among the departments and observing surgeries. And then they did the usual camp activities -- movies, pizza and pool parties -- during the evenings.

The camp helped convince several girls that nursing is right for them.

"It's what I want to do," said Leslie Sides of Perryville, Mo. After seeing a delivery in the maternity ward, Sides is convinced that's where she'd like to work.

Amber Wellborn of Morley had always wanted to become a nurse and spending a week at the camp reinforced her ambitions, she said. She liked seeing a Caesarean section at the hospital.

Kristin Thompson of Chaffee also liked being able to observe the surgeries, though she had hoped for a chance to see a brain surgery sometime during the week.

The goal of the camp was to help get students interested in nursing at a time when the health-care industry is feeling the pinch of a nationwide nursing shortage.

While there appears to be no shortage of nurses in Southeast Missouri, both hospitals in Cape Girardeau operate with a 2 percent vacancy rate. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the nation should see a defecit of 800,000 nurses by 2020.

The nursing camp helps serve as a proactive effort to get young students interested in the field, said Sharon Stinson, who acted as camp director. She is also director of patient care services at the hospital.

"It lets them see what nursing is about and lets them see the various arenas where nurses work," she said.

The students spent the first part of the week observing in different units at the hospital, from cardiothorasic and heart patients to obstetrics and neonatal care.

They spent a day at the hospital's College of Nursing, participating in classes as if they were enrolled. During that day, they learned how to set up a surgical table, change a bed while a patient is in it, scrub in for surgeries and take X-rays.

On Thursday, they spent much of the day outside the hospital, talking to a flight nurse at ARCH Air Medical Services and the staff at the Lutheran Home.

Pamela Cissell, a flight nurse with ARCH, explained how nursing is a constant learning experience. Today's nurses are handling fewer patients than ever before, but those patients require more critical care, she said.

Some of the most important work a nurse can do is to provide patient comfort, Cissell said. Sometimes that's as simple as holding a person's hand or offering them a pillow.

Exposing the students to such diverse experiences through the camp might just spark their interest in a health-care career, Stinson said.

Some of the girls have already graduated and are enrolled in LPN courses.

The camp was promoted through area high school counseling offices and scholarships were awarded to 14 of the participants. Students from Advance, Dexter, Ste. Genevieve, Scott City and Chaffee attended.

ljohnston@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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