As UNLV nursing student Lori Handelman belts Jaiya Raybon into a wheelchair she tells the Nevada State High School senior, "We always have time for safety. I don't care if someone's having a heart attack or they've been shot."
Nurse Camp is in session, and area high school students are learning crucial lessons in a hands-on lab at the Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas.
Handelman, a level-four nursing student set to graduate in August, is working at the camp's ambulation and lifts station, one of several in the sim center where high school students considering a future in nursing can get a feel for the profession through presentations from current nurses, trips to University Medical Center, and hands-on experience doing things like putting on protective personal equipment, removing sutures, listening for heartbeat irregularities, and more.
"I originally wanted to be a pediatrician," Raybon said. "Then my mom and I were talking and we realized nurses were the ones who interacted with the patients and make the patients happy. So I wanted to get into nursing. Everything I've seen today has been cool. I wanted to see if nursing is something I really wanted to do, and so far, it is."
This week's five-day camp session saw 14 students come through and another section next week will host at least 24, though registration is still open. About 50 current nursing students helped show the high schoolers the ropes.
On one station, nursing students had the campers remove sutures from plastic arms and a leg — nicknamed "Hammy" — and dress the wound with sanitary tape. On another, students worked in teams to demonstrate how to use a hospital bed and manipulate patients in order to change the bedding underneath them.
"It's important for them to be able to see what it is to be a nurse," Handelman said. "You have an idea what it means to be a nurse, but you don't really know. For them to be able to see this before they go and spend all their time and then figure out no, I don't really like this, or oh, I really love this, it's really important."
That was the impetus behind the creation of the program, started in 2019 before being derailed in 2020 by the pandemic.
Minnie Wood, the School of Nursing's director of clinical and community partnership, said she never had anything like this when she was coming up as a prospective student, and that she never even realized prior to entering the field that nurses were ever doing anything other than working at patients' bedsides.
"I didn't know about public health nurses who were researchers or scientists or advanced practice nurses who are nurse practitioners and midwives and nurse anesthetists," Wood said. "That's the kind of experience we're trying to show them, it's a vast career with so many different options."
In another room inside the sim center, campers got to work with medical manikins that could simulate wounds, or were hooked up to speakers so the high schoolers could hear what an irregular heartbeat sounded like.
Nursing student Yra Bognot coached one camper through taking a manikin's pulse at the neck, elbow, wrist, and foot, then using a stethoscope to listen for signs of an obstructed airway, carefully demonstrating how to wear the device, place it on a patient, and what to listen for.
In teaching, the hope is that students reinforce their own learning.
"Our motto is 'nurse leaders begin here,'" Wood said. "We're offering them an opportunity to be leaders right now. My favorite thing is to walk around listening to them teaching. They're getting to use their own skills, getting to teach, getting to share their knowledge. You watch, and then you learn, and then you teach, and that's how it solidifies it for you. It's a great learning opportunity."