NorthBay Health brings back Solano County skills camp for teens interested in nursing

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the medical industry, often leaving even the most anticipated of events stuck on the back burner. At NorthBay Health of Solano County, such was the case with its annual Nurse Camp.

Nurse Camp has made its triumphant return this year. The program, which began back in 2004, allows local high school students and students who are entering college to gain an array of skills while taking part in a slew of activities — all courtesy of current NorthBay nurses.

The three-day camp began on Tuesday and runs through Thursday. On Tuesday at the VacaValley Health Plaza, students learned about using sterile gloves, suturing wounds, inserting IVs, intubating and the safe administration of medications.

Wednesday's docket at the NorthBay VacaValley Hospital included trauma tasks, splinting broken bones, trauma response in the emergency room, how to stop bleeding and experiencing drunkenness with goggles.

One of the founders of the program, Maureen Allain says she is training others to take over the program for her in the future. Those two nurses taking over happen to be Nurse Camp alumni.

"We are very excited to have the program back," said Allain. "The students are learning a lot. It's not only good for the students, it's also very good for the staff. I think the staff needed something like this after COVID to lift their spirits and help them realize we are getting back to normal. The staff looks forward to this just as much as the students do."

One of those nurses taking over for Allain is Nora Fey, a current labor and delivery nurse.

"I am absolutely thrilled Nurse Camp is back," said Fey. "I just found a photo of myself doing casting from seven years ago during Nurse Camp. I was so excited that the leadership program asked me to take over. It's the reason I'm a nurse."

The 31 campers arrived on the second floor of an empty Intensive Care Unit and split into five groups. Each group spent around 20 minutes at each station.

At the trauma tasks station, nurses Michaella Caponio and Pam Baumann taught the students about how to use backboards, cervical collars and the straps which hold patients on the board.

They also explained how triage tags work. Triage tags are used during natural disasters or mass casualty incidents to indicate a patient's state as either minor, delayed, immediate, or deceased.

Rodriguez High School student Sophia Marquez volunteered to lay on the board as fellow camper Benicia High student Giana Mauros strapped her into the cervical collar.

Caponio and Baumann then showed the students how to "log roll" the patient, thus helping avoid damage to their neck, but check for back injuries.

After the completion of each station, the campers received a button as a keepsake.

Next door, nurse Jesse Perla taught the students about splinting a wrist. He showed them how to wet the plaster and place it without touching the skin. It was Perla's first time teaching as a part of Nurse Camp.

The campers then paired up and gave each other splints, which they were allowed to keep on for the rest of the day.

Perla explained that typically eight layers of plaster will be applied and can be removed with a special saw that won't cut skin.

Over in the trauma response room, the energy was a bit more chaotic. A dummy audibly groaned, "bloody" towels were strewn about the floor and a rogue plastic foot was on the floor as students worked to tourniquet the wound of the "patient."

That "patient," a dummy man, theoretically had his foot blown off in an explosion at work. The campers got firsthand experience in what to do in a trauma situation that required immediate action.

As the dummy was rolled in on a gurney, the students transferred him to the operating table and were told to cut all of his clothes off.

As the dummy repeated, "Ouch my leg!" students worked to check for internal bleeding and made sure his airways were clear.

"Where is his foot?" asked one of the students as it lay on the ground. Once it was found, the students were informed that in a real-life situation, the foot would need to be put on ice.

Emergency room nurse and 2012 Nurse Camp alumna Mariah Hartmann and ICU nurse Danielle Manno led the "Stop the Bleed" demonstration. This was Hartmann's first time teaching in Nurse Camp. Manno has been a part of Nurse Camp since 2015.

Hartmann and Manno taught the campers the three ways to stop bleeding: Pressure, packing and tourniquet.

Students were able to practice using a tourniquet and used jello blocks with "wounds" to practice packing and applying pressure.

The nurses also taught the students about Narcan and its importance, especially during the current fentanyl crisis. They passed around the bottle and taught the students how to use the life-saving measure if they encounter an overdose. Each student received a box of Narcan to have with them in case of an emergency.

Narcan is administered as a nasal spray to reverse the effects of a drug overdose. Hartmann says anyone can stop by the ER and ask for a box and that soon it will be available in pharmacies.

The last station of the morning took the students back to their days of riding a Razor scooter as a child. This time, however, they were driving a scooter while "drunk." Each camper put on "drunk goggles" and rode a Razor scooter down the hallway and back.

"Can you imagine driving a car like this?" asked one of the nurses.

This station allowed the campers to understand just how dangerous drunk driving can be and why it can lead to such traumatic situations.

After lunch, the students were set to view a helicopter landing on the hospital's helipad. Activities on Thursday at NorthBay Health Medical Center in Fairfield will include a hospital tour, operating room activities, labor and delivery, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the Mother-Baby unit.

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