Monday, July 11, 2005

Hospital Scouts Nursing's Future

By Nancy Deutsch, RN, BAA
May 01, 2005

Pam Cislo, RN, MSN, vice president of nursing services and chief nursing officer at Genesys Regional Medical Center in Grand Blanc, Mich., portrays Florence Nightingale as she speaks to members of Girl Scout Troop 829.

For years, the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts have worked to instill leadership values in youngsters and unlock their potential while giving them a chance to learn different skills that will help them in the adult world. Many of these young problem-solvers will be tackling the significant issues that face us all when they grow up.

One of those concerns is the nursing shortage. Nurses at Genesys Regional Medical Center in Grand Blanc, Mich., recently partnered with the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts to help resolve this problem. They invited a group of 26 junior Girl Scouts and Webelo Scouts (scouts who are older than Cub Scouts but younger than Boy Scouts) to attend a three-hour workshop that may have planted the seed for a nursing career in at least a few young minds.

Blair Merlo, 12, attended the workshop. Blair’s mother is Beth Merlo, RN, BSN, patient care director of Genesys’ neuro trauma ICU, so Blair already has a pretty good idea of what nurses and other health professionals do every day. However, she says many of her friends do not. “It helped them know what nurses and doctors do every day,� Blair Merlo says.

Even after the workshop at Genesys, Blair Merlo holds to her career choice of veterinarian, but she thinks the event was great fun and it may have influenced a few of her friends’ career choices for the future.

Debbie Smith, leader of Girl Scout Troop 829, says a handful of kids came away from the workshop with an interest in nursing. “It really helped them see what nursing is like,� she says, adding that even those not contemplating a nursing career had a great time.

Get ’em while they’re young

Whether or not the day actually produces future members of the profession remains to be seen, but everyone involved says the experience was fun, and the Girl Scouts involved earned a nursing badge, which is no small feat considering there is no national badge for nursing available to Girl Scouts. The Sahuaro Girl Scout Council in Tucson, Ariz., developed the badge and has applied to make it a national program, but it hasn’t been yet. The Sahuaro Council gave the Genesys nurses permission to give out the badge.

The idea for the workshop came after Pam Cislo, RN, MSN, vice president of nursing services and chief nursing officer of Genesys, attended a conference where she heard about the nursing badge for Girl Scouts in Arizona. When Cislo returned from the conference, she approached nurses on the Professional Development Council with the idea that they should offer the badge locally. The Professional Development Council works to establish an environment of nursing excellence through communication and mentoring, recruitment, and retention programs.

The Professional Development Council nurses then contacted the Sahuaro Council in Tucson to get the badge and learn the criteria for earning it. They then developed their own workshop day.

“We believe we’re the first ones in Michigan to offer [the Girl Scout nursing badge],� Cislo says. And her motivation is clear: “We wanted to get girls and boys interested in a career in nursing early on,� she adds.

One of the nurses on the council has sons who are Webelos, and she thought they should be involved, too, explains Sue Jacko, RN, BS, patient care director of cardiovascular acute care at Genesys. The nurses readily agreed, wanting to encourage the profession among young men, as well. Although the guys couldn’t earn a similar nursing badge based on what they learned, they could get some credit toward a Webelo Readyman badge.

Gina Freske, RN, a pulmonary floor staff nurse who is also on the Professional Development Council, designed a patch for all the children to receive. It reads “Genesys Regional Medical Center 2005 Nursing Badge Workshop� and depicts a large hand reaching for a smaller one. The nursing badge that was obtained from Arizona shows a stethoscope attached to a heart. The Girl Scouts received both, and the boys received a pin “to even things out,� Jacko says.

Education stations

At the beginning of the event, which was manned by volunteer nurses, nursing students, and a physician, the group of 26 children was divided in two. Half listened to Jacko interview Florence Nightingale, who Cislo portrayed in full period dress. Cislo told the history of Nightingale’s life as a nurse. The second group of youngsters dressed as surgeons and watched Cheri Mys-Curtis, MD, suture chicken legs. After the demonstration, the kids were allowed to try their hand at suturing. The groups then switched presentations after 15 minutes.

After this portion of the workshop, the 26 scouts broke off into six groups. Each group then took turns at six different activity stations.

At station one, the youths learned about the basic tenets of CPR. The second post was a patient care station. Here, the children watched a video and volunteers showed them the various pieces of equipment that might be in a patient’s room and explained each one’s function. Vital signs were the emphasis at the third location, and the scouts learned all about them, including how to take a patient’s blood pressure.

Nursing students (who received community service hours for their participation) staffed the fourth station. They discussed what kind of education is required to be a nurse and what those interested in a nursing career could do to prepare. At the fifth spot, the kids made first-aid kits that they were allowed to take home. The final, and most popular, area was the hand-washing station. Here, the students washed their hands, put a powder on them, and then shined a black light to show how well they had done their job.

“We did a survey afterwards and they absolutely loved [the three-hour session],� Jacko says. And they weren’t the only ones. Beth Merlo adds that the nurses really enjoyed it, too. “There was a sense of being involved in the community,� she says.

An engaging success

Although most of the children’s comments about the workshop were positive, there were a few negative, but typical, statements. “They didn’t like blood,� Beth Merlo remembers. “One little boy got faint when we were suturing a chicken leg.� But Merlo says they were definitely interested. “The kids were engaged. They seemed like they walked away with a knowledge base on nursing and health care.�

Freske worked at the patient care station that day. She says the committee targeted children at the right age to have them think about a nursing career. “These days they start young,� she says.

Freske’s daughter, Ashley, 11, attended the workshop. Although she says she doesn’t know if she’ll become a nurse, she liked the day. She especially had fun with the chicken sutures. In fact, the stitches seemed to have made quite an impression on all the children.

Sherri Pepitone, RN, a neuro trauma ICU staff nurse, member of the Professional Development Council, and mother of two Webelo scouts, also was in attendance. She remembers that “one boy said [the suturing] was freaky, but he liked it.� Another boy said his favorite part was hearing the history of Florence Nightingale.

The day was such a phenomenal success that the Genesys nurses are already planning to do it again, perhaps on a larger scale. “We’d like to do this a couple of times a year,� Jacko says. She adds that several other area Girl Scout troops have expressed interest in offering the badge to their girls. Although the first group was a trial and the hospital absorbed the cost, Jacko says future troops may have to pay a small fee, such as $5, per child.

Freske says the hard work of organizing the workshop day was well worth it. “We felt really rewarded that we were able to do something like this for the kids.�

“It was really a good experience,� Pepitone agrees. Although she loves nursing and likes to share that feeling, having all those inquiring minds asking questions and doing things was even more exhausting than working on the floor, she says.

Only time will tell if any future nurses were created, but there was one sure positive outcome, according to one of the nurses. “At least [we opened] their eyes to what we actually do,� Pepitone says.
Posted by HypnoKitten at 11:32 AM

Blogger shrimplate, at 10:19 PM  

Maybe I could develop a similar nursing education outreach program with some of the kids that work the meth labs in south Scottsdale.

I won't be wearing a Florence Nightingale outfit while I'm doing that, though.

Blogger JLeonard, at 6:18 AM  

Have you ever thought about exchanging tee shirts or sweat shirts with other trauma nurses? I work at The Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center in Memphis,TN.

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