After four days of learning to perform simulated venipunctures, assess vital signs and perform a head-to-toe assessment on simulated patients and create fake vomit (or emesis) from household items, Choctaw High rising senior Kayden Sutton is even more determined to become a registered nurse.
The 18-year-old was among 11 Northwest Florida high school students participating in the first-ever Nurse Explorer Boot Camp held July 10-13 on Pensacola State College’s Warrington campus.
“After high school, I plan to attend nursing school. I want to be a floater nurse and be well-versed in everything. I’ll be the first nurse in my family,” said Sutton, an HCA Florida Fort Walton-Destin Hospital patient care technician.
“I’m very much the caregiver in my family and just want to be a light in a dark place for patients. I’ve seen how sad some patients have become, and I want to let them know that they are not alone.”
Funded by a $50,000 HCA Healthcare Foundation grant, the Nurse Explorer Boot Camp Program included the recent camp where high school seniors learned various aspects of the nursing profession and worked with the PSC nursing faculty and simulation specialists in real-life situations.
On Sept. 16, Oct. 21 and Nov. 4, the students also will gather to hear speakers in the nursing and other healthcare fields and take on additional educational challenges.
Other boot camp participants were PSC Charter Academy students ─ Janice Barnes, Abigail Belliveau, Emily Reyes Bretau, Brook Gatshall, Marshall Sechrist, Destany Stevens, Nate Stotts and Saleen Waters.
Two other Okaloosa County students ─ Choctaw High’s Jasmine Daugard and Niceville High’s McKenzie Janssen ─ participated in the boot camp.
Sechrist, a rising senior, described the boot camp as a “real cool experience.”
“It was very immersive and all hands-on,” said the 18-year-old Pensacola resident. “I liked the phlebotomy course but was intimidated by the needles.”
His least-favorite activity was creating puke.
“It was intense,” explained Sechrist, who recently visited a relative in a local hospital.
“That opened my eyes to how many duties nurses perform. I’m not sure if I will enter nursing, but I will recommend the boot camp to my classmates. It was a unique experience, and I enjoyed meeting new people and working as a team. During the Potato Crash game, we all learned the importance of communication ─ especially in the health care environment.”
Nate Stotts, another rising senior, liked the details about the camp.
“On our first day, each of us received a lab coat, stethoscope, and other medical equipment that real doctors and nurses use in their day-to-day duties,” said Stotts, who is considering a career as a nurse anesthetist.
“I’m glad I got to talk to health care professionals who have worked in the field. They all were willing to share their knowledge and skills.”
HCA Florida West Hospital administrators were honored to partner with the College and impressed with the quality of high school students who participated in the boot camp.
“Nursing is a calling, and I can share firsthand there is no more worthwhile profession than nursing because you will save lives,” said Angela Ellis, Chief Nursing Officer at HCA Florida West Hospital.
“We have high hopes that this will be the first step in a successful and rewarding career for each student, and we are proud to play a role in that development.”
Dean of Health Sciences and Nursing Dusti Sluder, Director of Nursing Corey Lofton, Department Head of Health Sciences Dr. Mitzie Sowell, and faculty members ─ Diane Jennette, Melissa Sims, Beth Menah, Sandy Moore and Charlotte Philyaw ─ led the sessions.
“The Nurse Explorer Boot Camp summer session was a successful event. Participants were actively engaged in basic nursing and health care activities, which broadened their knowledge and understanding of health care professions,” Sluder said.
Jennette said the hands-on training the boot campers received was invaluable.
“This week opened their eyes to the different health-related career paths. And I think it helped some students explore and find their callings,” Jennette said.
Also partnering with the College and HCA Healthcare Foundation was Chain Reaction – a local nonprofit that empowers 14- to 18-year-olds through real-world service and leadership experiences. Chain Reaction shared its Resume Learning Plan and Leadership Development programs that help students excel in the workforce.
Another partner, West Florida Area Health Education Center, assisted with student recruitment.
During the boot camp, participants also learned proper handwashing techniques, how to dress wounds, medication administration, and even moulage – the skill to create bruises, burns, and rashes using ordinary household items like glue, food coloring, petroleum jelly, coffee creamer and more.