Mason holds first-ever nursing camp for high school students

High school students at Mason's nursing camp learn how to administer CPR. Photo by Bethany Camp.

After five full days of extensive learning, the teens who participated in George Mason University’s first-ever nursing camp are better able to answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

At least that’s the case for Araya McNeal, a 16-year-old recent California transplant who attended the nursing camp with her twin sister, Amaya.

“I know I want to do something in health care, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Araya McNeal said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to be a nurse, so I thought it would be good to come here and get experience.”

The twins, along with their 20-plus camp mates, experienced many facets of nursing. Showcasing the paths available with a nursing degree was a main goal of the camp, facilitated by the School of Nursing within George Mason’s College of Health and Human Services.

Although nursing offers a range of disciplines, most high schoolers “think of the white uniforms and then they think of hospitals and doctors’ offices,” said Sonya Almond, a School of Nursing faculty member who developed the concept for the camp.

A key part of the camp was having students participate in a disaster drill, which simulated the treatment of Ebola in the field during the height of the crisis. Students were separated into different teams to act as transport nurses, front-line nurses and nurse practitioners.

The disaster drill was the highlight of the camp experience for 17-year-old Rosemary Bonilla, a rising senior at Osbourn High School in Manassas, Va.

“Once you get a degree you can be a labor [and delivery] nurse, an ER nurse, an ICU nurse; there are so many paths we can take,” Bonilla said.

Josuha Vinluan, a Mason nursing major, volunteered to work with the campers.

“As a senior, it was my responsibility,” Vinluan said. “I felt inclined to show my wisdom as both a student and a nursing student.”

Working at the camp helped him build his leadership skills, and is one more thing that will help him post-graduation, he said.

When asked about his own nursing career plans, Vinluan said he is still leaning toward bedside care.

“The beauty of nursing is that you can pick whatever you want. There are so many doors open for me.”

Nursing faculty said they plan to hold the camp again next year.

Mason nursing instructor Sonya Almond developed the camp's concept. Photo by Evan Cantwell.