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APSU’s inaugural Aspiring Nurses Camp inspires high school students

By: Victoria Godinez June 10, 2024

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - Twenty-five high school students from Montgomery County and surrounding areas recently participated in Austin Peay State University’s inaugural Aspiring Nurses Camp, a week-long program aimed at nurturing the next generation of nursing professionals.

The camp provided a platform for students to delve into the world of nursing under the guidance of experienced faculty and students from Austin Peay’s School of Nursing. It was funded by a $15,000 grant from the Clarksville-Montgomery County Community Health Foundation and the Tennessee Nurses Association.

“Nursing is such a tough, amazing, compassionate profession, and we need as many nurses as we can get,” said Dr. Eve Rice, the director of Austin Peay’s School of Nursing. “Whether it’s today, yesterday or back when I started in 1997, there will always be a critical shortage … but I really think it’s one of the most rewarding professions out there.”


Students get a firsthand look inside a life flight helicopter at Tennova Healthcare during Austin Peay State University’s inaugural Aspiring Nurses Camp. | Photo by Sean McCully

Through hands-on training opportunities, prospective nursing students learned essential skills like CPR, basic life support, first aid and more. An integral part of the camp was the Tennova VIP Experience, where the School of Nursing collaborated with Tennova Healthcare—Clarksville to offer students a firsthand look into a healthcare facility's daily operations.

Rice emphasized the significance of civility and compassion in nursing and all aspects of life during her address on the first day of the camp. The students were introduced to the nursing civility pledge and core principles, with a focus on the School of Nursing’s motto: "Kindness Matters."

“I am learning every day that kindness goes a much longer way than the money and materialistic things I can offer,” said Kourtney Thomas, a recent School of Nursing graduate. “I want to be the person on the care team who makes a difference in others’ lives during what is likely the hardest time in theirs … [and] I want to be my patients’ advocate even when it goes against the status quo.”

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Students practice CPR on training models during Austin Peay State University’s inaugural Aspiring Nurses Camp. | Photo by Victoria Godinez

Throughout the camp, students engaged in diverse activities, from basic life support training to lab rotations covering fundamental nursing practices like handwashing, hygiene, vital signs and wound care. Guided by nursing faculty and junior and senior nursing students, the participants gained valuable insights and practical skills essential to a healthcare career.

“[Nursing school] is really a moment for you to mature and become the adult that you’re going to be, and it’s a big learning curve,” senior nursing major Anthony Rivera said. “Besides learning all the information about the human body and communication skills, you also grow as a person. You have to learn how to make connections for yourself.”

Students got a head start on building their networks when they visited Tennova Healthcare for a meet-and-greet session with the nursing leadership team, a facility tour and engaging learning modules. The camp concluded with lab rotations, where students deepened their understanding of critical assessments and nursing procedures, including heart, lung and GI assessments, medication administration and IV skills.

“I have had so much fun helping the high school students and our current nursing students see how vital the profession is and what they can do,” Rice said. “You’re not just stuck in a hospital once you graduate - the sky’s the limit. You can be a travel nurse, a geriatric nurse, you can work at a health department. There’s so much out there related to having a Bachelor of Science in nursing.”

Francesca Riggins, an 11th-grade student who attended the camp, commended the hands-on learning experiences and said the event provided unique opportunities to practice essential skills that are rarely accessible in standard educational settings.

“This has definitely helped me realize my passion for healthcare and guided me towards specific specialties I want to pursue,” said Kegan Siebert, who will start her senior year of high school this fall. “I really enjoyed all the immersive, hands-on experiences, and I’d recommend anybody to sign up for this camp to see how they feel in this type of setting.”