Lessons from camp

Recently I had the opportunity to volunteer with Camp M.D., a week-long camp sponsored by Southern Oregon University for young students interested in healthcare careers. OHSU SON Ashland participates with this by being mentors and using our skills lab for a two day simulation enabling the students to learn about nursing. Campers are given hands on practice after being taught the basics of priming lines, spiking bags, and setting an IV.

I’ll admit I signed up rather reluctantly. Not sure what I was in for, and coming off a night shift, I wasn’t sure that my mind would be as sharp as it needed to be…particularly when faced with a group of teenagers. My first assignment with the group was to teach priming and spiking a bag, to go over the basics of tubing types, and how to read an order. It’s ironic that while I was preparing to teach and explain, I was the one about to get a lesson in learning.

Lesson number 1: if a mannequin is lying in a bed in the lab, information on IV lines and saline just isn’t all that!  The basics of saline and tubing were quickly overshadowed by eager exploration of the mannequin and various machines and components of the classroom. This was followed by a dialogue of questions. “Does it really bleed? What does this do?” and “Can we connect the IV line to that?” Mixed in with youthful banter and lots of laughter, the students began to share openly about camp, their own lives, and why they were excited about healthcare. Their energy was contagious.

Lesson number 2: you can learn a lot from a teenager. As I came back the next two days, I got to know the students even better. I worked with them in smaller groups and debriefed three different simulations on preparing a patient for surgery. Each day I left more impressed than the last with the degree of interest, raw talent, and genuine excitement for learning I had witnessed. The future really is held by the upcoming generations, and in Southern Oregon, that future looks impressive. On the final day, I found myself disappointed that it was coming to an end. My initial reservations had turned into a rekindling of my own excitement for healthcare and the process of learning.

I see the SIM lab experience differently now than I had before. Once very intimidating and seemingly full of potentially “epic fails,” it had suddenly come alive again. I had rediscovered the fun of having a problem and getting a chance to use critical reasoning skills to find a solution for it. Working behind the scenes running the scenarios, I discovered a new respect for the amount of planning and consideration it took to create those teachable moments. As we left the SIM theater, I passed the tables of plastic arms with their bulging veins and I smiled. When had starting an IV become routine? I used to keep score of each successful attempt, my mind doing a little victory dance with each one. When had I lost count? The line of IV poles and dangling tubes still stood in classroom lab area #3. I laughed as I remembered my first attempt at priming and spiking IV solutions. As I recall, I showered both myself and my patient in 0.9% normal saline.

As I left the building, I glanced back over my shoulder. I would be returning in a few short weeks for my final year of nursing school. In that moment, time in the nursing program seemed to have moved rapidly. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I had only just begun? The motivation Camp M.D. students had for learning was contagious. It wasn’t until I went back to the basics that I realized how far I had come. Looking forward, I’m now very aware of how far I have left to go and even more eager to get started. I got the chance this week to be rekindled. I was reminded of the power held in curiosity and the desire for learning. More importantly, I was reminded of how much I love what I do. I am still working on removing the words “like” and “totally” from my vocabulary. As I tried to sum up this experience, however, I feel the words of the students are the most appropriate; the opportunity to participate with Camp M.D. was nothing short of “totally awesome.”