When Carolyn A. Chow, MA, currently an HR recruiter and inclusion program lead at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, was the director of admissions and student diversity at the University of Washington (UW), she co-founded their successful UW Nurse Camp, which still continues today.

“For schools and colleges who want to make a longitudinal difference in the future of nursing and health equity, a program like UW Nurse Camp is a win-win for high schoolers, current nursing students who are mentored to be leaders, and nurses who want to make a difference in the lives of the high schoolers who shadow them,” says Chow. “Costs to run the program are completely covered by community donations.”

Chow took time to answer our questions about the camp.

You co-founded the UW Nurse Camp in 2009 while on staff. Why did you start it? Had you been thinking about it for a while?

We had a very dedicated team of student leaders who wanted to create a group that was for building community and mentorship opportunities among students of color in the nursing program. In 2007, we sat down to talk about ways we could do that. So, UW Nurse Camp became a way we could have underrepresented students have professional mentors, be mentors to fellow students and high schoolers, build community through a specific year-long project, and to provide a pipeline of “first in their family to go to college” as well as underrepresented-in-nursing applicants who would get support from UW School of Nursing through the program. It took two years of fundraising in the community and organizing before we launched the camp in summer 2009 with 24 campers. In 2018, the camp expanded to hosting 36 campers.

What is nurse camp, exactly? How long does it last and who attends?

UW Nurse Camp is a five-day, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. day camp. This year’s camp is July 15-19, 2019. UW Nurse Camp accepts applications from February 1 to April 15. High school sophomores and juniors who are underrepresented and/or first in their family to go to college are encouraged to apply. While most applicants are from Washington state, the camp has also had campers from California, Oregon, Maryland, and Illinois.

UW Nurse Camp is run completely by staff, nursing students, and community volunteers. Former campers who became UW BSN students are mentored to be UW Nurse Camp Leads, where they run the program so they can “give back” by sharing their success stories and serving as inspiration to future campers.

What do the high school students learn at UW Nurse Camp? 

The curriculum for UW Nurse Camp is designed to introduce high schoolers to the profession of nursing and everything it has to offer as a meaningful career. We focus on what a powerful difference diverse high school students can make in the promoting health equity. The sessions are taught and supervised by current and diverse UW Nursing students, alumni, staff, faculty, and community members. Campers also shadow nurses taking care of real patients and their families at the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC).

From the UW Nurse Camp website:

  • Shadowing nurses at UWMC in various hospital units
  • Completing CPR certification and HIPAA training
  • Learning:
    • about infection control and proper hand washing techniques
    • how to take blood pressure and vitals
    • how to prepare for college and getting into nursing school
    • in the School of Nursing learning and simulation lab and UW Medicine’s WWAMI Institute for Simulation in Healthcare (WISH) Lab
  • Participating in nursing “speed rounds,” where you will meet and talk with nurses working in all areas of health care, including forensics, public health, emergency and research
  • Touring the UW Seattle campus

Why is it important to have this? What does it bring to the students that they may not get otherwise?

UW Nurse Camp is so important for students at all levels. Campers have access to a program that supports and teaches them about nursing and college educational opportunities. They get ongoing mentorship throughout camp and then continued support beyond from UW nursing students and alumni who are professional nurses. They meet diverse nurses in all different areas of nursing. In addition, they are continually advised by admissions staff on how to apply successfully to the UW BSN program and ways to prepare themselves to be competitive nursing applicants.

Current UW students are mentored with UW Nurse Camp as a leadership program. As UW Nurse Camp Leads, the students volunteer their time and efforts through the entire academic year to plan the UW Nurse Camp experience, including engaging in professional communication with camp speakers and instructors. They are mentored by School of Nursing staff in advising and youth program risk management. Additionally, the nursing students conduct the UW Nurse Camp admissions process.

Would you like to see this branch out and be something that other nursing schools offer? Why?

Absolutely. This is an incredibly successful program that supports underrepresented and first in their family to go college high schoolers in their journey to become professional nurses. They get to see diverse nursing students and professional nurses in action. The students also have inspiration and validation that they can make it through the nursing admissions process, and they gain networking contacts to support them throughout their process of graduating from high school, getting volunteer opportunities, completing prerequisites, and applying to college and nursing school.

Do most students who attend end up going into nursing? How do you think that UW Nurse Camp influences them?

According to a survey of former UW Nurse Campers, 50% of attendees pursued or are pursuing nursing. Another 30% pursue other health care careers. Finally, 20% opt for non-health-related majors. UW Nurse Camp influences them because as high schoolers they get access to professional nurses and clinical situations at the UWMC as well as support from UW nursing students, staff, and faculty. They gain access to role models in nursing who are committed to helping them to succeed in the profession. UW Nurse Camp demystifies the journey to becoming a nurse.

Interested in learning more about UW Nurse Camp? Visit here.

Michele Wojciechowski

Michele Wojciechowski is an award-winning writer and author of the humor book Next Time I Move, They’ll Carry Me Out in a Box.
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