UnityPoint Health's nurse camps foster interest in nursing among kids

Des Moines, Iowa-based UnityPoint Health has taken a different approach to addressing the national nursing shortage: instilling a passion for the profession at a young age.

Fifty-nine middle schoolers from across Iowa gathered in UnityPoint's Simulation Center for a series of two-day immersive experiences over the summer. Campers engaged in a series of nursing activities, including vital checks and bedside care, that culminated in first aid and CPR certifications. 

Denise Cundy, BSN, RN, chief nurse executive for UnityPoint Health, told Becker's 15 staff members were involved in the planning that fostered a "futuristic thinking" mindset.

"As we think about workforce strategies, [it's not] just what do we need right now, but what do we need for the future as well?" she said. "That was really the impetus." 

Ms. Cundy said the first set of campers were children from the system's employees, and tweaks were made for the sessions open to the community — which were successful among campers, parents and staff alike. 

"What really filled my bucket as the chief nurse executive was seeing our own nurses so passionate about sharing their love for their profession," Ms. Cundy said. "And just seeing the fun and excitement, of course, on the campers, but it was really that desire to elevate our professions and just share it with others."

The system plans to hold the camp next summer as well, with 18 campers already on the waitlist. 

"[We want to] bring those participants from this year that are interested back next year to do some advanced type of work, like actually shadowing on the floor, and those kinds of things," Ms. Cundy said. "And we're also tossing around an idea to do maybe a second career camp, so for someone who's in a different career looking for a change, or for that person who always wanted to go on healthcare, but they never did." 

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