Our View: Skittles show the way in health care

While it might seem like an entertaining way for high school students to spend a week away from their X-Boxes and Netflix subscriptions, MultiCare Health System’s annual Nurse Camp is serious business. Area hospitals will need those high-schoolers to enter the health care field to help stave off the double whammy of a nursing shortage and an aging population that will need more health care in their twilight years.

Around the country some 72 percent of hospitals have reported experiencing a nursing shortage at their facilities in recent years. The general downturn in the economy has eased the nursing crisis in some circles, as veteran nurses opt to stay in their smocks a few more years rather than retire as a way to keep from drawing on their dwindling retirement accounts that have largely been hammered by the stock market death spiral since 2008. But the economy will eventually improve. Those nurses and specialists will retire, leaving hospitals in a pitch to fill their ranks.

That is where programs like Nurse Camp come in, which take the long-term approach.

Some 100 students from around the South Sound spent a week shadowing nurses and participating in medical procedures to see if careers in health care are in their future. Some of the activities were simply fun, poking fingers into cow hearts and performing their own “Skittle-ectomy” to remove Skittles candies from mock patients, making for good times for most teenagers. But students also checked out emergency rooms, intensive care centers, surgical care areas and specialty clinics where lives are changed by the work done within their walls.

The program does not ask students to sign up for nursing school at the end of the camp like it was some military recruiting effort. It just hopes to plant the idea that health care careers can be challenging, rewarding and exciting. And we all benefit from students seeking such professions since we all get sick or find ourselves hospitalized sometime during our time on the planet. These students and would-be nurses will be there at our side. The question is for how long? Will they have an entire ward of patients to oversee as well, or will we get personalized care because the shift is well staffed?

Nurse Camp strives to create the latter and curb the nursing shortage one nurse at a time.

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