The nursing profession is known for the demands it makes on its practitioners. Nicole Hinzie ’07, a pediatric nurse, is familiar with the long hours, rotating shifts, and constant vigilance required to care for patients in her 33-bed unit at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics in Minneapolis.
So how does Hinzie find time to serve as director of Health and Wellness Programs for the Camp Ohana Foundation, located more than 8,000 miles away in Kenya?
“From the time I was a student, I always wanted to learn more about other cultures and through that, experience nursing in a different way,” says Hinzie, who earned her bachelor of science at Winona State in 2007.
Hinzie found out about the Camp Ohana Foundation in an unlikely place – Kryzsko Commons– when she met its founder and chairman, Amos Balongo, during a WSU career fair. The foundation sponsors a variety of programs, such as clean water, agriculture, health and wellness, education, and wildlife stewardship, for children across Kenya.
After working long-distance with the foundation for a couple of years, Hinzie made her first visit to Kenya in November 2010. She traveled across the east African country for nearly two months, teaching oral and hand hygiene to hundreds of children in villages, schools, and orphanages.
The experience motivated Hinzie to work with Balongo to establish the Camp Ohana Health and Wellness Program, which serves about 350 children in western Kenya every three months. Fundraising makes up a significant part of her responsibilities, but Hinzie is also busy building health and wellness lesson plans and creating instructional videos that she distributes via a blog site. This year, she plans to get Twin Cities elementary schools and colleges – along with her alma mater, Winona State – involved in her work.
Her long-term goal is to raise an endowment large enough to keep the Camp Ohana Health and Wellness Program operating into perpetuity.
“One of the things that inspired me to look for an opportunity like Camp Ohana was hearing about the experiences of Cathy Nosek,” says Hinzie of the WSU associate professor of nursing who regularly takes groups of her students to Tanzania. “Her energy and enthusiasm about nursing and serving others made a big impact on me.”
Hinzie says that her trip to Kenya helped her uncover something that had always been in the back of her mind when she was a student at Winona State. While she loves – and excels at – her career as a pediatric nurse, she is also greatly drawn to teaching others.
Despite the 12-hour shifts at Children’s Hospital and her work with Camp Ohana, Hinzie somehow finds the time and energy to take a nursing student under her wing each semester for required clinical experiences. Hinzie teaches her students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom through hands-on practice in a real hospital setting.
“As a student, I never realized what it took to be a preceptor and how much work goes into teaching,” remarks Hinzie. “But it’s amazing how much teaching keeps me educated and up-to-date about my profession as a nurse.”
Hinzie’s work is gaining notice. She was recently named as one of three finalists for the 2013 Outstanding Nurses Award from Allina Health, a network of Minneapolis providers that includes Children’s Hospital. She spent part of the summer setting up the healthcare program for a summer camp in northern Minnesota, something she has been doing since she was a nursing student at Winona State.
And she’s planning a return trip to Kenya to do more ground work for the Camp Ohana Health and Wellness Program. It seems that Hinzie always has the time for the things most near and dear to her heart: nursing, teaching, and making an impact.