Governors Institutes of Vermont Health and Medicine camp lets teens test nursing skills

Learning takes no vacations, even when it’s midsummer and visitors might expect to find campus cue-the-crickets quiet and students away. On a mid-July morning, Norwich’s nursing simulation lab in Bartoletto Hall’s basement buzzed with teenage visitors and university student advisors. All were there for the Governor’s Institute of Vermont Health and Medicine camp.

Five campers, who were on the last day of the weeklong camp, crowded around a bed where a blue-gowned, floppy-haired mannequin lay open-mouthed and audibly panting. (The magic of technology). Norwich nursing major Kyle Gonzalez, a rising senior, identified the mannequin as patient George Jones, age 74, who’d come in dehydrated after having had diarrhea. The group members would check the patient’s vitals and determine the precautions necessary to avoid worsening his health or endangering theirs.

The Health and Medicine camp, one of three such Governors Institutes camps on Norwich’s campus during this summer — the others are Engineering and Architecture Design & Building—brought 30 participants from grades nine through 11 to learn to detect large-scale disease patterns and other skills. Governors Institutes Executive Director Karen Taylor Mitchell said the camp works to enable students to succeed anywhere and see they can have exciting educations and careers in Vermont.

Daniel M. French, Vermont’s education secretary, came to meet the campers and see their progress. He said Norwich was apt for a Governor’s Institute camp — packed with resources and led by generous adroit faculty. He said the camp could particularly show rural Vermonters academic possibilities.

“It’s really critical to promote aspirations of students who live in rural areas and may not understand the full world of opportunity,” said French, who once taught school in Canaan. “And to give them some confidence that they are equally well prepared to succeed in the college environment.

“This program continues to expand, not just to meet student aspirational needs but also industry needs,” French added. “It’s important to show that breadth, but also the ability of a college like Norwich, which … has the technical expertise and faculty to share their knowledge and passion for their fields with students. I think that’s a tremendous opportunity.”

Nicole Lapointe, executive director of the Northern Vermont Area Health Education Center, a health care workforce development agency said that Norwich, by hosting the program, is helping campers consider a variety of majors and test whether campus life would suit them.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have this here at Norwich,” Lapointe said, adding that it was the first year the Health and Medicine camp had been on the Northfield campus. “Much of the content has been delivered by Norwich faculty, which has been uniquely, in my experience, able to connect with students of this age group. And their approach … is experiential forward, which is very, very appealing to these students.”

Governors Institutes of Vermont
Campers from the Governors Institutes of Vermont Health and Medicine camp work in the Nursing Simulation Lab in Bartoletto Hall.

Michael McGinnis, dean of Norwich’s College of Science and Mathematics, said the Governors Institutes camps let the university be a good citizen. Addressing a statewide demand for doctors, especially in rural regions, he said, begins with interesting students, especially in kindergarten through 12th grade, in medical careers.

McGinnis added that the camp shows participants that Norwich can offer health career study paths beyond biology and programs such as the upcoming master’s in athletic training.

“Our strategic plan has public health as one of our initiatives,” he said. “And I’m sure we will be looking at other health profession majors and careers. We need not only to prepare (health professionals) here, but keep them here … if anyone’s going to do it, we have to do it. We have to be the leader.”

In the sim lab, Gonzalez was leading, handing the campers an iPad to look up medicines for their ailing patient, who reportedly felt weak and unsteady when he was admitted. When one camper strapped on a stethoscope to check for a pulse, Gonzalez ensured she placed the microphone correctly (on the chest, not the shoulder). When the camper said the pulse ticked like a clock, Gonzalez assured her she was hearing right.

Gonzalez, a nursing major and Corps of Cadets member, said he was already on campus at Future Leaders Camp and joined the Governors Institutes camp for depth — he’d complement his military experience with more academic experience. He said he was glad to share the simulation lab knowledge he’d gained as a Norwich sophomore.

“I love the idea of outreach to a community because I think I’m very passionate about joining people into the medical field,” he said, pausing to explain why a low white-blood-cell count might signal danger. “There’s a great shortage of nurses … and I think the more people we can join into the medical field and push through the program, the better.”

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