Students get medical closeup at nursing camp

Nurse anesthesiologist Steve Skinner demonstrates intubation techniques to Blacksburg High School student MacKenzie Graham, center, and Christiansburg High student Brittany Campbell.
Nurse anesthesiologist Steve Skinner demonstrates intubation techniques to Blacksburg High School student MacKenzie Graham, center, and Christiansburg High student Brittany Campbell.


MacKenzie Graham, a sophomore at Blacksburg High School, was all smiles as she entered the operating room at LewisGale Hospital Montgomery. Her hair was tucked neatly into a hairnet, the surgical gown wrapped around and the surgical mask fitted snugly across her face.

Graham was not the typical visitor to the operating room. Instead of having a procedure done, she was there to learn firsthand the duties of a surgical scrub nurse.

Graham was joined by eight other area high school students who were participating in the nursing career camp offered by LewisGale Hospital.

The campers learned the sterile techniques required as they scrubbed, gowned and gloved in order to enter the operating room. They learned the role of the circulating RN and became familiar with the surgical instruments. The campers were then introduced to Steve Skinner, a nurse anesthesiologist who, among other things, taught how to intubate a patient using a mannequin head.

Registered nurse Diane Gully has been in charge of the camp since a weeklong general healthcare career camp was offered to middle school students in 2009. High school students requested a similar experience but due to their busy schedules, LewisGale decided to make it nursing specific and shortened the length of the camp to three days.

Gully is excited about what the camp has to offer.

“Successful camp experiences can positively influence students’ perceptions about a career in nursing,” she said. “There is nothing better than seeing a student being excited about the possibilities of their future career. This program allows them to see what it would be like in the actual environment.”

The hospital partners with the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) and receives a grant of 50 percent matching funds to cover the cost of the camp, minus a $30 registration fee. Each student received a scrub shirt and stethoscope to keep.

Alan Fabian, CEO, LewisGale Hospital Montgomery, said, “Nurses are the backbone of patient care and play a critical role at our hospital. We hope our camp will inspire the next generation of nurses who will care for our community. It’s our job to offer these opportunities that will support our community into the future.”

After attending orientation on the first day of camp, the students learned the role of the Advanced Practice Nurse in the Emergency Department. They were taught how to suture and were able to practice on cow tongues. Aditi Islam, a junior at Blacksburg High School, said the cow tongues were her least favorite part of the camp.

“I really enjoy how this camp lets me experience everything, it shows you how nursing is in real life,” said Islam, who plans to go into pediatric nursing.

The campers also visited the nursing simulation lab at Radford University. They learned how to draw up injections, listen to different types of breath sounds and heart sounds as well as interact with the mannequins in simulated scenarios. They were taught how to insert an IV and were able to practice on an IV arm that simulated actual blood return.  As part of this session of camp, the students participated in a birthing experience with one of the mannequins.

As part of the obstetrical nursing portion of the camp, the students spent time at the Birthing Center at LewisGale Montgomery. Angie Johnson, a registered nurse of 15 years, taught the campers how to care for newborns and assess their wellbeing.

The students also learned about the role of the oncology nurse and why genomic medicine is a rapidly growing area in healthcare. They learned how DNA can be isolated from cells by performing a DNA extraction from their own cheek cells and creating their own DNA necklace.


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