Lauren McDonald 

The scene unfolds quickly. A woman on the ground claims the bicycle accident left her with no feeling in her legs and feet.

Another person steps up, takes charge and directs nearby witnesses, saying, “Give me space. I need you to go over there. I need you to walk away. I need you to step back and give her space.”

Emotions were running high, even though the fabricated scenario took place in the safe and calm classroom of College of Coastal Georgia’s nursing school. The quick role play activity was meant to let the students practice some of the crisis response skills they’d just learned, and it wrapped up a week’s worth of activities during the college’s summer nursing camp.

The camp, open to rising high school juniors and seniors and college freshmen, was hosted in partnership with CCGA and Southeast Georgia Health System.

Lydia Watkins, dean of the college’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences, said the camp will hopefully serve as a recruitment tool for the health system and the college’s nursing program. The bigger goal is to attract more students to the field of nursing.

“Right now we’re in one of the biggest nursing shortages ever, so at the hospital and the college it’s a big focus of ours to get more nursing students in and get more nurses,” she said.

The health system and college recently announced a $2 million expansion partnership intended to increase the nursing school’s enrollment and improve student success.

Shannon Wainright, director for women and children services at Southeast Georgia Health System, worked closely with Watkins and other college and hospital staff to organize the summer program.

The college intended to first hold the camp in the summer of 2020, but that plan fell through due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The nursing shortage and recruitment needs the camp is meant to help address have only worsened in those few years.

Over the course of four full days, students learned from hospital and college staff about some of the basics of the nursing profession — communication, patient privacy, ethics — and what a day in the job can look like.

They also completed an assessment used by the hospital that identifies a nurse’s work approach and team strengths.

“Kind of like a personality assessment, you learn more about yourself and then you also learn how to interact with people that are a different category than you,” Watkins said.

Other activities included a uniform fashion show, an Olympics-styled competition to demonstrate some of the skills they learned, a tour of the college and short classes to learn about CPR, crisis response and more.

Camp participants spent one day at the Brunswick hospital touring areas like the operating room, therapy spaces and the maternity ward.

They also spent two hours shadowing individual nurses and experiencing the work.

This tour helped rising Brunswick High seniors Anna Lee Croft and TaNiyah Battle get a clearer picture of what area of nursing most interests them.

“It gave me the insight that, yes, I really do love maternity,” said Battle, who visited a c-section patient and the newborn ward.

Croft was also drawn to working some day in a maternity ward. This is just the latest development in her plan to be a nurse, which she said first formed around seventh grade.

“I’ve always wanted to help others,” she said. “… You’re always going to remember that one nurse that made you feel special, that one nurse that was always there for you.”

During the hospital visit, one student was allowed into the labor room of a woman who would soon give birth. Others visited the newborn nursery. They aided the nurses where possible, helping a patient change into a hospital gown or conducting initial assessments on a newborn baby.

“We’ve really tried to teach the empathetic side of nursing and just how to remember the humanism of it and how there’s never a bad patient — there’s patients that are having a bad day,” Watkins said. “… I tell them that compassion is something we can’t teach. It’s something you have or don’t, and you have to have that to be an effective nurse.”

Wainright said the nurses at the hospital were excited to teach the students about the profession.

“From the college to the health care system, we just have a true passion for taking care of the people and patients in our community, and we want to share that,” Wainright said.

Republished with the permission of The Brunswick News. Originally published in The Brunswick News