Samuel Merritt University nursing students mentor at-risk teens about healthcare careers

Appeared in: ADVANCE for Nursing

By: Elizabeth Valente

More than 3 dozen middle and high school students from the Oakland Unified School District area dedicated 7 weeks of their summer to learn about careers in healthcare from nursing students and faculty members at Samuel Merritt University (SMU) in Oakland.

"Youth in Medicine" is a free summer program created by the Oakland-based Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in collaboration with SMU and Sutter Health East Bay Medical Foundation. The course allows students between ages 11-15 to have an up-close look at how simulation-based education and clinical skills are integrated into academic programs at the university. It also allows them to get a firsthand look at what could become their lifelong career in healthcare.

"The majority of students involved in Youth in Medicine are considered "at-risk" teens," said Greba Jackson, program director. "If it wasn't for a program like this, many of these kids would be at home in front of a TV, computer or somewhere unsafe."

Lighting Fires

The 3-year-old program was created as an opportunity to expose students living in low-income homes to different healthcare careers and encourage them to attend college after graduating from high school. Youth in Medicine is a component of Youth Bridge, a 20-year career development program that enables East Bay adolescents to complete high school, gain meaningful employment experience, learn about health-related careers and pursue further academic and vocational education.

Jackson said having SMU students as mentors allows the young teens to relate better to the healthcare environment.

"These kids look at the university students as someone to confide in and feel comfortable asking about their studies and what they had to do to get into college," she said. "I've seen fires lit in these children".

Student to Student

For 15-year-old Mimi Le the summer program and opportunity to work with SMU students allow her to feel better prepared when she returns to school in the fall.

"My friends think it's cool that I am doing this because some of the things we do here they won't be able to do unil they get to college," Le said. "I like learning from the university students because they don't lecture or make me feel dumb. They help explain things a little easier than in a classroom and it's more personal."

For SMU BSN student Todd Yee, explaining nursing skills, anatomy, podiatry, histology and operating room situations also is a teaching tool for himself.

"I never thought of teaching before, but this is an opportunity for me to improve my communication skills with young patients," Yee said. "This program also allows me to stay sharp on my basic studies, work with simulation a little more and get to know my community a lot better."

Inspiring Future Nurses

Despite the costs and time investment, SMU faculty and staff say the program is well worth the effort.

"This is the only way I know how to teach," shared Celeste Villanueva, MS, CRNA Health Sciences Simulation Center and nurse anesthesia program director. "If you love what you do - and I do - you want to share it with someone who has the possibility of blooming as a nurse. Helping to inspire these young kids is very rewarding."


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