There’s a lot to be said for a camp nurse. What I mean is that among the jobs at a camp, being the nurse or medical provider, is one of the most stressful, but can also be the most rewarding. In my own experience of camping, I have both gone to the nurse, taken kids to the nurse, and more recently been one of the nurses. Having taken a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) course last May, I was able to be a camp nurse alongside an RN–in which I covered the infirmary during the night and helped deal with illness, injury, and passing out medications throughout the day. It really is one of the more rewarding experiences because you work with campers who are dealing with anything from gaga ball cuts, to upset stomachs, to missing moms and dads.
Ball and Ball discuss in detail all that goes into creating and managing the health care system of a camp–and I have to say it’s a lot. They state that there are three broad functions of a camp health service, those being, “to manage resources for health care, provide care, and respond to emergencies” (242). There are a lot of terms for different health care providers that could be at camp, although ordinarily camps only have a health service administrator and then a health care provider (or providers) (Ball and Ball, 243). My type of training is at the bottom of the list that Ball and Ball provide in that I can, “respond to life threatening situations, recognize those situations, make do with items in the area, and give life-support” (244). In other words, I have a training in which I cannot prescribe treatment, unless it falls under wound care, anaphylatic shock, asthma attacks, spine clearance, CPR, and simple dislocations. As you can see, camp could include many more areas and so a WFR would not be enough to cover a camp’s medical needs. Generally, WFR’s are those counselors who take students out onto backpacking trips and such, where they would need to understand if an injury or illness is life threatening or not.
Ball and Ball state that if a nurse is the camp health provider then they need, “direct experience in first aid, because many of the minor ailments of camp life require that sort of attention rather than diagnosis or long-term treatment” (245). In other words, you can’t have a nurse who is used to taking directions only, but rather one who will take the initiative as well. I found it interesting that the health and wellness of camp doesn’t stop with just the health care providers, but instead Ball and Ball tell us, “activity directors, kitchen managers, and administrative staff engage in health education when they point out safe ways to do activities, perform jobs and maintain environment health and safety…counselors are their [campers] primary health teachers” (245). Thinking back to the first chapter, camp was originally about teaching kids how to be healthier and spend more time in the outdoors, learning survival skills. In a lot of ways that hasn’t changed because those who are in leadership should be teaching campers what it means to be healthy and practice safety in activities.
Health forms are incredibly important in making the health staff aware of students needs, as well as keeping a record of any incidences or injuries while at camp. Three forms should be collected before coming to camp, these being, “health care recommendation, health examination, and health history” (Ball and Ball, 247). Ball and Ball draw the distinction between health history and then the health log, another form in which a nurse keeps track of the date, name of camper/staff, and any treatment or medication given. Not only that, but camp healthcare provider needs to be made aware of their expectations and duties and so, like counseling staff, should be given a manual at staff training that includes all of these pieces. Overall, camp has a lot of potential for fun and excitement, but that also comes with the potential for a lot of injury and illness. Having a plan and personnel in place who can deal with, sort through, and administer to people’s needs will save the camp from any liability, negative reputation, or having to close.