While camp nursing is often fun, I want to dispel the idyllic, lazy day stereotype that nurses, and lay people, might have about camp nursing. Camp nursing is hard work!
I run health services year 'round for a special needs camp. Our population runs from age 10 to, well, 81 was our oldest camper last summer. They are all mentally and/or physically disabled, everything from head injuries, to polio, diabetes, spina bifida, seizure disorders, shunts, mental illness, muscular dystrophy, etc. We handle G-tubes, CPAPs, lots of catheters, etc. All this can be intimidating to a new nurse, but I train my nurses to think that this is everyday stuff for our campers, so, we'll do it right, but no big deal. I supervise a staff of three, and our typical census for seven 5 day sessions is about 80. Out of the 80, 65 or so will be on meds, and we have a lot of polypharmacy.
Our campers' families often have the mistaken notion, that, because we are licensed, we are running a mini-hospital. I gently educate campers, staff, and families, whenever possible, this is not the case. Unless there is a physician, or advanced practice nurse on staff, which we do not have, RNs and LPNs can only offer first aid, wellness, medication passing, and nursing diagnosing. We camp nurses should not diagnose and treat illness unless the Medical Director is in on it. If one of our campers needs more than that, they are going to ER, our Camp Doctor, or home.
A nurse who has not camped before should visit the camp she is considering if at all possible. Take a look at the health center. Clean and organized are obvious things to look for. But consider the size of the place. Our infirmary (oops! I used the old fashioned word) has four beds for our 80, or more, campers. I once worked at a camp that had 18 beds for a census of 60. Sure enough, I never had even a minute when some camper was not checked-in to the infirmary! High infirmary usage, especially overnight stays, were part of the "camp culture." High health center usage will use up the nursing staff quickly. My current Camp Director and I agree, if you have to spend much more than a night in the health center, it is probably time to get some advanced care, ER, or home. We're here to camp, not to live in the infirmary. BTW, make sure the Camp Director doesn't want to practice nursing. I asked a Camp Director once who the head nurse was. He said he was. That was a tough summer.
During the summer sessions, our nurses' day begins at around 0700. We get ready for the day, and pass meds at 0800. I represent nursing at our daily senior staff meetings at 0900. I assign four hour infirmary shifts from 0800 - 1200, 1200 - 1600, and 1600 - 2000. The night call nurse, usually me, takes from 2000 to 0800. I am a night owl anyway, and my nurses love a good night's sleep. Many of the situations requiring director-level decisions happen a night, as well. If I do not have a client in the infirmary, I snooze. Often, I will admit a behavioral problem, so the rest of the cabin and staff can get some rest.
Clients are in and out of the infirmary all day long. We patch their boo-boos, give advice and TLC, sometimes have a moment of horror and call the doctor or an ambulance, make rounds if the infirmary is quiet. We pull meds, sit on the porch, go swimming or down the zip line if we are off duty. (I never do camp activities. I am too afraid of being "out of the game" if something should happen, but I insist my nurses ride horses, shoot, or something during their down time. The campers and staff love it!) We pass meds five times a day. I spend my day "inspecting what I am expecting," checking documentation, the health center, rounding, being sure MARs and other documents are ready for the next session, calling parents or the doctor, etc. I am blessed with great nurses, so, often, the best thing I can do is stay out of their way.
After supper, we pull meds again, and pass them around 2030, at the end of the evening activity. That's done by 2100, or so. We then make cabin rounds, to do treatments and to deal with any issues. The last thing I say to the staff at night is, "Call me if you need me, don't call me if you don't need me." I never scold the staff for unnecessary calls. They figure it out on their own, and I don't want to be the "mean nurse" stereotype. Then we pull 0800 meds. I usually make it back to my house around 2230. So, it's a long day, broken up by down time.
I do hire LPNs, since the care level offered is well within their scope of practice. Since their job is identical to my RNs, I pay them the same (someone's gonna hate me for that!).
So, here's a snapshot of our day. Good luck, and try it! If you have brains and heart, you will have an amazing summer.