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UNLV nursing camp shows students the ropes

Updated July 14, 2022 - 1:53 pm

As Ryker Moriwaki showed Mario Scott how to monitor a person’s oxygen levels at UNLV on Wednesday, the two shared something in common: Both of their mothers were nurses.

Moriwaki, a senior in UNLV’s College of Nursing, and Scott, a recent graduate of Cimarron-Memorial High School, came together Wednesday as part of the university’s third annual Nurse Camp, which brings high school juniors, seniors and recent graduates together with UNLV students to encourage them to pursue a career in nursing.

“I wish I had an experience like this because they get to do some of the skills that we get to learn as nurses,” Moriwaki said. “When I applied to nursing school, I thankfully had my mom … she taught me what nursing is.”

Over the course of the one-week camp, students will learn how to administer CPR and first aid, insert catheters, check vital signs, remove sutures and staples and operate equipment to move patients from hospital beds to wheelchairs.

The students practice these skills with the help of UNLV nursing students and mannequins that are set up throughout the university’s 31,000-square-foot Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas.

The camp comes as the number of students in nursing schools around the country isn’t keeping pace with the demand for nursing services, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

Scott, the recent Cimarron-Memorial graduate, called nursing a difficult but empowering profession, one that he has had a front-row seat in watching because of his mother. Despite his mother being “adamant” about him pursuing nursing, Scott said he was still unsure about the profession before coming to UNLV’s nursing camp.

But on Wednesday, the third day of the camp, he said his perspective had started to change after learning about the myriad ways that nurses can help people.

If he could quantify his odds of pursuing a career in nursing, he says, “I’m at an 80 percent.”

Where was he before the camp? “Definitely a 65 percent,” he said. “But I’m at 80 percent now.”

Recruiting nurses earlier

The university launched the camp in 2019 to increase the visibility of its nursing program as it was expanding the number of spaces for incoming nursing students. The camp was put on hold in 2020 during the pandemic and returned in 2021.

Jennifer Pfannes, an assistant professor in UNLV’s School of Nursing and the co-director of the camp, said she has been going out to high schools in the area to promote the camp and talk about nursing as a profession.

Interest for the camp has continued to grow over the years, she said, and faculty have found they need to start recruiting for nurses during high school, and not after students have graduated or once they’ve already entered college. Students will often have an interest in nursing as a profession and typically don’t know how to navigate applying to nursing school or what it takes to become a nurse.

“We need to bring them in earlier,” Pfannes said. “We need to get out there and talk to the younger population when they don’t really know what they want to do and kind of help provide opportunities like this to see if they do like it or if they don’t like it.”

Pfannes said that students who participated in the first iteration of the camp in 2019 have now completed their general college coursework and are readying to apply to UNLV’s nursing program.

Growing the camp

While the camp started out as a single, one-week program in 2019, it grew to two one-week sessions in 2021 and will have three, one-week sessions this year.

Students can still enroll in the second and third weeks of the program, which will kick off on Monday and July 25.

The deadline to apply for the second and third sessions of the program are 11:59 p.m. Thursday and 11:59 p.m. on Monday, respectively.

The camp will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and costs $650. Dependents of UNLV employees or full-time UNLV students can receive a $50 discount.

Students can apply online at unlv.edu/nursing/camp.

Moriwaki, the senior in UNLV’s College of Nursing, said his mother was skeptical when he told her about pursuing a degree in nursing, instead wanting him to become a doctor.

“After she saw me as a (certified nursing assistant), working as a bedside nurse, she said, ‘Maybe taking after mom is good after all,’ ” he said.

Contact Lorraine Longhi at 480-243-4086 or llonghi@reviewjournal.com. Follow her @lolonghi on Twitter.

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