At UNLV nurse camp, teens get glimpse into frontline health careers
At UNLV nurse camp, teens get glimpse into frontline health careers

Steve Marcus

Natalie Sanchez, left, a senior at Northwest Career &Technical Academy, and UNLV nursing student Yra Bognot listen to sounds from Ann, a medical mannequin, during a UNLV nurse camp for high school students at UNLV School of Medicine’s Clinical Simulation Center Wednesday, July 14, 2021.

With the ease of a seasoned professional, MarSadie Brian lifted the staples out of her patient’s leg, bandaged the healing gash and removed her gloves the way all nurses are supposed to — pinching the first one at the wrist before peeling it back, then sliding two fingers under the other glove to pull it off.

Except the leg is made out of foam rubber and Brian, 18, isn’t a nurse. She’s right out of high school. But as a participant in UNLV’s summer nurse camp, she’s on her way to an RN title.

Under the guidance of nursing students and faculty in clinical settings at UNLV’s medical campus simulation center, campers like Brian not only worked the staples and stitches out of foam limbs, they injected simulated intravenous drugs into a model arm, practiced donning and removing personal protective equipment, moved each other out of bed, changed sheets on occupied mattresses, checked vital signs, and looked in the eyes and ears of plastic heads. 

In one exam room, they saw an assortment of dramatic-looking injuries on silicone swatches of flesh — burns, cuts, open fractures and gunshot wounds — and even more realistic faux bodily fluids in bottles and surgical drains. They also heard normal and abnormal breathing and heart rhythms through high-tech mannequins, including one that blinks, coughs and hollers in distress. 

“One of them coded, and I saw teamwork” to bring it back from the brink, said Brian, a recent graduate of Coral Academy of Science in Henderson who will be starting classes at UNLV in the fall as a pre-nursing major.

She was exposed to the health sciences through her father, a dentist. Though this was her first time removing staples, she’s been on the other side of a nurse’s tweezers before — when she was 10, she needed stitches for a bad cut to her lip that she suffered in an ATV accident.

Brian plans to take her formal education into the emergency room as a trauma nurse, where injuries will be at least as severe as the ones crisscrossing the foam leg.

“I’m an adrenaline junkie,” she said.

Brian was one of 14 teens learning hands-on this week at UNLV’s nursing camp, a five-day experience for high school students and fresh graduates. The cost is $635 per camper.

Nurse practitioner Minnie Wood, an instructor and director of clinical and community partnerships at the nursing school and the camp’s coordinator, said the camp exposes potential students to all the career possibilities of nursing, college life, and how to get into nursing school.

“A lot of people think we’re just at the bedside, but we do so many different things (like research),” Wood said.

Ariana Tapia, 17, came to Las Vegas from Azusa, Calif., for the camp. With one more year of high school she’s still thinking over her career path, but right now nursing is the only thing she’s really considered. She said she likes “making sure everyone’s OK and taking care of them.”

The nurse camp debuted in 2019 but had to pause last summer as the coronavirus pandemic raged.

Next week, the wounded “limbs” and about two dozen more young people who might patch up the same injuries in real life will return for another session.

Wood said the pandemic has underscored the importance of building a nursing workforce, which UNLV is doing with increased enrollment.

“We’re the No. 1 trusted profession in America,” she said. “People already trusted us. We were already frontline workers. But I think that the pandemic really solidified that for people, and emphasized how important the nursing role is.”