The current nursing shortage is well documented. Lack of interest in the helping professions, different and financially more rewarding career choices for women, poor starting salaries for nurses, salary compression at the lower end of the scale, and the poor public and media image of nurses are some of the most frequently cited reasons for the shortage (Aiken & Mullinix, 1987; "AJN Survey," 1986; Beyers, & Damore, 1987; Buerhaus, 1987; Cohen, 1986; Donaho, 1987; Moccia, 1987; "The Nursing Shortage," 1987; "Surviving the Nursing Shortage," 1987.)
To combat these perceptions and to offer an opportunity for high school students to experience the challenge, excitement, and satisfaction of a career in nursing and health care while debunking some of the myths commonly associated with the profession, the faculty of the Lienhard School of Nursing, Pace University developed a summer camp experience. The summer camp was a week-long, intensive, on-campus experience for specifically selected high school sophomores and juniors. The overall purpose was to provide the opportunity for students to experience nursing and other health careers firsthand.
All area high schools were notified of the summer camp. A letter explaining the program and inviting sophomores and juniors was sent, along with an application and health clearance form, to the attention of guidance counselors, nurse's clubs, and high school principals.
Each interested student completed the application form, which included academic standing and reasons for wanting to participate in the camp. Students selected for the camp were those who had the highest potential for entering professional nursing. The criteria included grades, guidance counselor recommendation, written essay, and personal interview.
The seven students who were chosen had better than average overall academic achievement and high grades in the sciences consistent with Pace University's admission criteria. Guidance counselors provided input regarding the student's motivation to pursue a career in the healthcare field. The written essay demonstrated the student's interest and knowledge in nursing and health care.
The on-campus personal interview with the project director proved to be especially valuable in that students and parents were given early exposure to the college and to the expectations of this particular program. It also provided the project director with an opportunity to further assess the candidates' objectives and needs. This firsthand information later helped in developing the clinical group assignments.
A five-day program with didactic classes in the morning and supervised clinical experience in the afternoon was planned. The morning program was organized in such a way that the students learned specific health-related content, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). By the end of the week they received CPR certification. The Clinical Director of the University Health Care Unit, a nurse practitioner, led a discussion of teenage health promotion topics while describing her role in providing health care to students.
Campus tours and workshops were also included. The tours were conducted by officers of the nursing student organization. Participants had the opportunity to ask the nursing students about nursing or the School of Nursing and receive a peer answer. Campers were most interested in classrooms, dormitory rooms, and the student center.
Workshops were conducted by Pace University Admissions, Financial Aid, and Career Planning staff. Campers learned about overall college Ufe and services provided by the University.
Many of Pace's affiliating agencies were eager to participate in the afternoon clinical experience. Two were selected based on their close proximity to the campus and their ability to provide the clinical experiences needed. The two agencies were New Rochelle Hospital Medical Center, New Rochelle, and Phelps Memorial Hospital, Tarrytown. The in-service education director of each agency structured experiences for the campers to observe and participate with nurses and other health-care team members. The clinical experiences included nursing units, pharmacy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, operating room, and delivery room.
The faculty, although committed to recruiting for nursing, were interested in offering exposure to other health careers as well. University vans were used to transport students and faculty members to and from each agency.
The program was coordinated by the Director of the Learning Resource Laboratory, who has many years of invaluable teaching and summer camp experience. ' Her responsibilities were to recruit, admit, and communicate with campers and to coordinate didactic and clinical instruction offered by nursing faculty with the staff of the clinical agencies. She also ensured that each camper had a health clearance consistent with that required of students in clinical placements. She invited, planned, and hosted the speakers from the university community and ensured availability of meals, snacks, and transportation. She will also conduct an evaluation of the experience.
Funding for the project was sought from a private foundation. Fortunately, the foundation funded not only the initial proposal but will also provide to the university sufficient funds to repeat the experience. These funds included travel stipends and scholarships to camp graduates who are later accepted into the university's School of Nursing.
Students were thrilled to have a real taste of nursing. Each had at least one parent who attended an end-of-the-week picnic lunch for the campers, their parents, university faculty and staff, and cooperating agency staff. Staff from both cooperating agencies were rejuvenated by the students' excitement. Strong cohesion and affection by the students toward each other, the project director, faculty, and staff of the cooperating agencies was very evident. None of the students wanted the program to end and all offered to come back and help first -time summer campers the next year.
All who were involved in creating the nursing camp experience feel very hopeful about the future of nursing after meeting with the seven students who participated in this first camp. We plan to repeat the experience next year with two groups of 10 students each.
- Aiken, L.H., Mullinix, C. (1987). The nurse shortage: Myth or reality? N Engl J Med 10, 641-646.
- AJN survey shows a new RN shortage sprouting. (August 1986). Am J Nurs 86, 961, 969.
- Beyers, M., & Damore, J. (1987). Nursing shortage requires lasting solution, not quick fix. Health Progress 69, 32-35.
- Buerhaus, PI. (1987). Not just another nursing shortage. Nursing Economics 5, 267-279.
- Cohen, A.G. (1986). Nursing shortages: Will there be another nursing shortage? An analysis of the factors affecting today's market. Hospital Topics 64, 23-24.
- Donaho, B. (1987). Reasons for today's nursing shortage sound familiar. Health Progress 68, 31.
- Moccia, P. ( 1987 ). The nature of the nursing shortage: Will crisis become structure? Nursing and Health Care 8, 321-322.
- The nursing shortage - Nurses and the delivery of health-care services, now and in the future. Summary of the 1987 ARISTA Conference. Washington, DC; Indianapolis, IN: Sigma Theta "feu, 1987, pp. 33-41.
- Surviving the nursing shortage: Strategies for recruitment and retention of hospital nurses. Chicago, IL: Division of Nursing, American Hospital Association, 1987.