UW Nurse Camp provides high school students with exposure to the promise of a nursing degree

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UW Nurse Camp 2018 students, volunteers and staff pose for a group photo in front of the famous Drumheller Fountain.Grace Kramer/University of Washington

 

As a middle school student, Srinya Sukrachan spent a lot of time in hospitals. She had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and her father was battling colon cancer.

When she was 17, her personal health care experience led her to participate in the University of Washington School of Nursing’s first Nurse Camp. Now, a decade later, Sukrachan is one of the student leaders for the camp’s 10-year anniversary session and she’s become an advocate with a passion for teaching, equity and inclusion. The recent School of Nursing graduate already also has a job lined up at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle.

“It definitely was a dream come true,” Sukrachan said.

The week-long camp for high school students grew out of a need to encourage more first-generation college students and students from under-represented minorities to pursue nursing degrees, said Carolyn Chow, co-director of the UW Nurse Camp and director of admissions and student diversity for the School of Nursing. Applicants were coming to the UW unprepared for the rigorous prerequisite coursework necessary to pursue a degree in nursing, Chow said.

We had to figure out how to effectively reach applicants earlier with more supportive resources and experiences to learn about nursing as a career option,” she said. “They love the camp because it’s an opportunity to connect directly with nursing student mentors and professional nurses. And it’s an opportunity for us as a school to have a clear impact on diversifying the next generation of nurses.”

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During the week, the students learn a variety of skills that nurses employ and experience the range of care they provide. They also learn about financial aid, scholarships and how to apply to competitive academic programs.

“You can do anything you want to do in nursing,” Sukrachan said.

The campers do hands-on training, learning CPR, hand washing, infection control, recording vital signs and more. Private donations of about $250 per camper and volunteers make it possible to keep the camp free to campers. This year, 36 students are participating. Campers learn from current students in the School of Nursing’s recently launched simulation center and by shadowing nurses at the camp’s co-sponsor, the UW Medical Center.

After the camp, nursing students and staff foster strong longitudinal relationships with each camper to encourage success. The camp isn’t just a pipeline for admissions, it also serves as a leadership development program for current nursing students, said Chow.

“We work with former campers long after camp,” Chow said. “It’s a way for them to have a very clear, encouraging and consistent relationship with the UW.”

During the camp’s application process, parents and guardians are asked how likely the camper is to go on to college. Each year, more than half the parents predict their child wouldn’t be able to pursue college. Whether the camp can claim credit or not is unclear, but to date, about 98 percent of camp alumni have gone to college.

“I feel like that’s a great success,” Chow said. “We just want to make the UW as accessible as possible to diverse students and communities.”

For Sukrachan, she’s excited about her new job in Swedish Medical Center’s antepartum unit, serving women with high-risk pregnancies.

“It’s my job to keep the babies in,” she jokes.

But her passion — based on 10 years participating as camper, volunteer, mentor and leader at UW Nurse Camp — is teaching, she said. She is considering pursuing an advanced degree at UW. After all, it was a nurse who taught her mother the strict regimen of medications needed to thwart Sukrachan’s juvenile arthritis and send the disease into remission.

“That really saved my life,” Sukrachan said.

UW Nurse Camp is hosting a 10-year anniversary celebration at 2:30 p.m. Friday, July 20 at the Intellectual House on the UW Seattle campus. The event is free and open to the public.

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