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Girls gain confidence, learn about careers at health camp

Posted: Tuesday, August 07, 2012 · Volume: XLV · Issue: 16

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Seeing a birth, through the use of simulation manikins in the School of Nursing
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Seeing a birth, through the use of simulation manikins in the School of Nursing's new Simulation Center & Clinical Learning Lab, was an eye-opening experience for the girls at the health camp. They were led through the birth scenario by Health Science Center nursing faculty members and students who explained the process and answered questions. clear graphic

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By Rosanne Fohn

Watching a medical helicopter bring an injured patient to the hospital, seeing a “mother” simulation manikin give birth to her “baby,” and earning CPR and First Aid certifications were just a few of the activities a group of young teenage girls experienced this summer in a new health camp at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio.

The 16 girls, ages 12 to 14, live in South and East San Antonio and participate in the Girls Empowerment Program at the Martinez Street Women’s Center. Provided with an orange School of Nursing scrub shirt and a stethoscope, they attended the health camp two days a week, June 18 through July 18, on the Health Science Center campus.

“These girls all come from underprivileged areas of town and I wanted to expose them to something different that they could be proud of,” said camp director Norma Martinez Rogers, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, a clinical professor in the School of Nursing, who grew up in the Alazan-Apache public housing project in San Antonio.

“I wanted to plant the seed that they can do this. They are smart enough to go to college,” said Dr. Rogers, a founding board member of the Martinez Street Women’s Center. Despite her family’s economic hardships, Dr. Rogers earned four educational degrees: a bachelor’s degree in nursing, master’s in counseling, master’s in psychiatric/mental health nursing and a Ph.D. in the cultural foundations in education.

Keeping an eye on educational goals
A secondary theme of the camp was to encourage the girls to stay focused on school and avoid teenage pregnancy. “San Antonio has a high teen pregnancy rate and we wanted the girls to know that it’s not that simple having a baby. We wanted to make an impression,” Dr. Rogers said.

That is how the girls came to see a “birth” in the School of Nursing’s new Simulation Center & Clinical Learning Lab. The brand-new facility helps Health Science Center students and medical residents practice providing care in a safe environment, using high-fidelity manikins that can be programmed to simulate various health scenarios for teaching purposes.

After seeing an educational video on childbirth, the girls crowded around the mother manikin lying in a hospital bed in the Simulation Center as the instructor led them through the scenario, frequently stopping to ask the girls questions and clarifying what was going on.

“I’d say it made an impression,” said Health Science Center nursing student Jennifer Cude, who volunteered to help with the camp. “The girls were dumbfounded and in awe when they watched the childbirth video” even before going into the Simulation Center.

“It made me really think about waiting on having kids,” said Brianna Torres, who will be a freshman at Edison High School in the fall. “But it got me to thinking what it would be like if I were on an elevator with a pregnant woman and the elevator got stuck and how I could help her.”

The girls had the opportunity to ++respond++ to a Code Blue (heart attack) in a simulation scenario using a high-fidelity manikin in the School of Nursing
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The girls had the opportunity to "respond" to a Code Blue (heart attack) in a simulation scenario using a high-fidelity manikin in the School of Nursing's Simulation Center and Clinical Learning Lab.clear graphic


Career choices
During a tour of University Hospital, the girls saw the medical transport helicopter land on the roof and bring in a patient. They visited the Critical Care Unit as well as the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where they observed tiny, one-pound babies being cared for by nurses and respiratory therapists.

Later, in the School of Nursing’s Simulation Center, the girls participated in a Code Blue, in which a manikin is programmed to simulate a patient having a heart attack. Torres said, “That was a really great experience. I got to see what the nurses actually do. It made me think about what would happen if somebody’s heart stopped and how I might be able to help them.”

The girls also learned about fetal alcohol syndrome and how babies are affected when their mothers take drugs. They discussed this while holding infant simulation manikins designed to show the physiological differences between babies with these lifelong health issues and normal infants.

Ideas for the future
The camp inspired a number of the girls to consider a career in the health professions.

Linda Yates, 13, said that she would definitely consider becoming a nurse. “I like to help people and it feels really good to give back,” she said. “I want to make a difference in someone’s life, like maybe help them live another day.”

Torres said she is intrigued with the mysteries surrounding death and would like to become a forensic toxicologist.

Her mother, Claudia Torres, an administrative assistant in the School of Nursing’s Department of Family and Community Health Systems, said, “I’m glad Brianna and the other girls were given the opportunity for hands-on activities to see if they want to consider this career path. And they all got CPR certified. This is great because a lot of them are babysitters.” Another bonus, she said, is that her daughter now has specialized activities to put on her high school resume for scholarship applications.

Cude, the nursing student, said, “I think this camp has given the girls a lot of confidence. Now they are really going to know what to do if there is an emergency. It will give them some knowledge to take back that not everyone has,” she said.

Mentoring opportunity for nursing students
Cude and eight other nursing students volunteered to help with the camp as part of a School of Nursing mentoring program called Juntos Podemos, Spanish for Together We Can. The program provides support for nursing students ― many of whom are the first in the families to attend college ― throughout their nursing education. First-semester nursing students learn from more experienced students how to master the demanding coursework while also often holding down jobs and raising families. And as they progress through their nursing education, they have the responsibility to give back by being good role models and mentoring the students coming along behind them.

Over the years, Juntos Podemos has expanded to include mentoring for pre-nursing students at UTSA and now, through the health camp, the mentoring has extended to high school and middle school students. Support is also provided for parents who may not be familiar with the possibility of their children attending college or how it can be accomplished.

Dr. Rogers said she would not have been able to implement the camp without the help of Theresa Villarreal, M.S.N., RN, clinical assistant professor, who is the faculty adviser for Juntos Podemos. “She worked very closely with the student nurses to ensure that this program was implemented smoothly,” Dr. Rogers said.

Each mentoring level seems to benefit the others. For example, Bianca Batchelor, a senior nursing student, said, “The girls in the health camp really related to me because I grew up in the same area of town they did. A lot of them look up to me, but I’ve always been critical of myself and have had trouble with my self-esteem. The girls couldn’t believe that I’ve ever been worried about those things and they told me I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Juntos Podemos has helped me find my voice, find my leadership and find my confidence.”

After graduating in May, Batchelor plans to work in women’s health, then return to the School of Nursing to earn her master’s degree and a certificate in Women’s Health in Nursing Practice.

Meanwhile, Torres, the new high school student, said, “I really would recommend the health camp to my friends. It shows you what you can do in life, and what if some of these (health issues) happen to you? Wouldn’t you want someone there who could help you?”

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