Cassidy Brown, a rising junior at Caledonia High School, has always wanted to be just like her grandfather — a lifelong emergency room nurse at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle, who, upon his retirement, moved to Africa to work as a nurse in clinics.
“He came back and told me stories,” Brown remembered. “That’s when I really wanted to do it.”
So when Brown’s mom stumbled on Crash Course, a four-day camp for rising high school juniors and seniors who were interested in pursuing careers in the medical field, Brown applied.
Brown was one of 13 students, most of them from Lowndes County, to get into the camp, which ran from June 5-8 at Baptist. It was the fourth year the hospital hosted Crash Course as a way to give high school students interested in the medical field a head start and show them all the different career options in the industry, from nursing and therapy to being a doctor.
“The sky’s the limit with health care,” said Nicole Pounders, staff development specialist and registered nurse at Baptist, who is in charge of the program. “There are so many different fields the students could go (into).”
In their applications, the students indicated their career goals and interests. Pounders used those to divide students between doctors and nurses they could shadow each day, so every students saw different parts of the hospital and worked with different medical professionals.
But first the basics: Each student was certified in CPR on the first day of camp. They also talked to faculty from the nursing program at Mississippi University for Women who told them, not only about the nursing program, but gave them more general tips on college applications, financial aid, studying and staying organized in college.
They also got to talk to paramedics, even riding in ambulances.
“They really enjoyed that,” Pounders said. “They had four hours apiece where they rode along (while the paramedics) answered calls.”
When they weren’t shadowing, they were learning to start IVs, check vital signs and take blood pressure.
The experience has been eye-opening for the students.
“Seeing how nurses react with different patients and how they use different medicines (has been the most interesting thing for me),” said Jordan Morgan, a rising senior from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “I remember seeing a nurse attach a (catheter) to a guy, and that was interesting to me.”
Morgan has wanted to be a general surgeon since he was much younger, and this camp hasn’t changed his mind — though he said it’s been helpful to see what the nurses do.
But for Brown, who wants to be an ER nurse, the emergency room was the most important part of the camp.
“Not everybody comes in the ER for serious stuff,” she said. “It could just be like their stomach’s hurting. But it was nice to see that the nurses cared even if it wasn’t something serious. Even if they had really high blood pressure and needed fluids, you got to see them care for them.”
It wasn’t just seeing the medical care nurses gave them, either, Brown said. It was more important for her to see how nurses interact with patients.
“We had one patient that was super confused,” Brown said. “…She was transported from another place, like a doctor’s office, and she thought she had lost something. But you could tell she was not very intuitive. She didn’t really know what was going on. Her husband was there and kind of explained to us that she couldn’t remember much. … We got her request, we did what she wanted, but we knew there was nothing we could do because she (hadn’t) actually lost it.”
Not everyone would have gone out of their way to help a confused patient the way those nurses did, she said.
“The nurse explained to me that there are some people, there are some doctors, who will walk in there and say, ‘You didn’t lose it. You’re seeing things,'” Brown said. “But people like (the nurses I shadowed), they care.”
Marissa Gandy, a rising senior at Columbus High School, agreed.
“The most important thing that I’ve learned so far is basically just having that one-to-one connection with patients, and you know that you’ll have to not only do your job but you have to also be a listener,” Gandy said. “And you also have to talk to them, give advice and kind of talk to them in a way that they’ll understand.”
While growing up, Gandy wanted to be an anesthesiologist, but she changed her mind after her grandmother’s death in 2014. She remembers how the nurses helped her grandmother at the end of her life, listening to her and being there for her. Gandy decided she wanted to do the same thing with her life. Like Brown, she’s found the camp most helpful because she was able to see how nurses and other medical professionals interact with patients.
“You know you have to care for them, but you also have to have that emotional connection with them,” she said.