Teens learn nursing through summer camp

Sunday, August 18, 2002

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- By the end of the week, Heidy Rodriguez will know how to check a patient's blood pressure, temperature and pulse. She'll know her way around the operating room, intensive care unit and maternity ward. She'll learn how to calm infants and comfort the elderly.

Then she'll go back to junior high.

Thirteen-year-old Heidy is spending a rigorous two weeks at a day camp designed to expose preteens and young teen-agers to the nursing profession.

"I never thought you could make a bed with someone in it!" she said, marveling at the skills she's learned in just a few days. "It's really exciting. I thought nurses just gave shots, but it's so much more. Nurses do everything."

Though specialized summer camps are nothing new, they usually target older teens. But the nursing camp's creators at St. Anselm College wanted to help young students focus on their futures before they reach high school.

"We think we're doing kids a favor by telling them, 'The world is your oyster,' but what we hear is they're overwhelmed by choices," said Sylvia Durette, a faculty member at the college and the camp's director. "We want to them to know more about themselves, and we want them to know more about nursing."

A similar camp -- for boys only -- operates in South Carolina and a two-day camp for preteen boys and girls is located in Ohio.

At this Manchester camp, which has no formal name, bandaging and bed-making replace arts and crafts. There are no campfires or sing-alongs, but plenty to keep the campers -- 27 girls and one boy -- busy.

Classroom instruction is offered at the college campus plus trips to area medical facilities where campers practice their skills. Though one long-term goal is to ease the state's nursing shortage, short-term benefits abound -- the campers are learning empathy.

Campers pay nothing for the two-week session, thanks to the Manchester School to Career Partnership.

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