Too much time on my hands

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    Ok, HERE'S a new one... I just finished my summer at a private camp upstate. The 4-day rotating nurses' schedule went 8a-10p, split shift (covering breakfast, lunch, dinner & night meds, total 8 hrs), 8p-10a, and then a day off. I had so much time off I didn't know what to do with myself. The management figured that they would be unable to retain nurses if they required any more of them than about 70-80 hrs/wk (including sleeping overnights). I did engage in camp offerings like kayaking and biking, but after a couple weeks I realized that no one else except nurses were getting so much free time, and I ended up holed in my bunk a lot, just reading. Sometimes I'd walk around and watch the action, but soon that felt creepy. The local town had little to offer. I kept offering my help with groups, tribal, activities, etc. but seldom taken up on it. I ended up feeling invisible and lonely, while it seemed like everyone else around me was crazy busy and having fun. The other nurses seemed to enjoy the down time. I'm not looking for advice, but I am wondering what others' experiences are with schedule, downtime, and participating in camp activities. Thanks for letting me vent.
    Joe V likes this.
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  4. 0
    I can understand. I worked at 2 different camps this summer. One was your typical sleepaway camp that also ran a day camp do there were a lot of campers & staff and I was the only nurse. I was busy all the time and when I wasn't, I was so grateful for the downtime. My kids were also there with me at the day camp so I got to spend some time with them in the evenings when I wasn't busy in the nurse's office. The second camp was a camp for exceptionally gifted musicians. We had only 40 kids and they spent most of their day practicing or taking lessons. Most of the staff were musicians as well, with the exception of the chef and the maintenance staff. Everyone was really nice but I was not busy AT ALL and I felt very out of place. Plus, I was only filling in on some weekends when the regular nurse wanted time off, so I didn't really get to know everyone, since I wasn't there from the beginning and would just come & go. My kids weren't with me since it was not your traditional camp with activities to keep them busy. It was very lonely and boring for me and I could not wait to go home! On the upside, I got paid VERY well, the food was amazing and the kids held concerts on the weekend nights for the community. The program director kind of hinted that I would have a job there next summer if I wanted, but, honestly, I had enough and don't think I would go back. I enjoyed the other camp much more and would go back there next summer in a heartbeat!
  5. 3
    Social isolation is a common problem for Camp Nurses. It is unexpected, and little has been written about it. It is not part of the idyllic camp-life stereotype many nurses have when they think about camp nursing.

    I am 55 years old, and I nurse year round for a special needs camp in the Southeast. Our Camp Director, one of those rare great men, is in his late 30s. Our Administrator is in his 40s. We have a full-time staff of six, including me, who live here all year. That staff ranges from their mid-20s to early 30s. During our seven week-long summer sessions, we have a staff of about 60, all in their late teens to early 20s. Camping, obviously, is a young person's game, often a great starting point for them.

    This leaves me 20 to 30 years older than the rest of our staff. I have great respect for all of them, but, other than our love for what we do, we have little in common, as should be expected, when you think about it. I briefly visit with the staff frequently, but I never "hang out." That would be creepy, and I never want to be what the kids call a "creepy old man." The role I have morphed into, and it feels right, is that of everyone's (except the Camp Director and Administrator) father. I take "my kids" out to dinner every so often. It's a treat for them, since they make less than half what I do. They can drop in with a problem when they need to. Like all "parents," there is a lot they don't tell me, and that's okay, too.

    Familiarity breeds contempt. Nursing is one of the few professions that people still have respect for (I know, I know, not always). Camp Nurses are held in a bit of awe by your typical camp staff. We are older. We have finished our education. We have an "easier" job, in their eyes. We make untold riches, again, in their eyes. Our word tends to be law. We nurses are held to a higher standard, one not always easy to live up to. For that reason, I believe we Camp Nurses need to be a bit isolated. This does not mean the Camp Nurse should be stand-offish or unapproachable. After all, heart and warmth are the heart of nursing. I seem to remember, in nursing school, something called "offering of self." So, we need to be available, part of the team, but not part of the gang.

    I'll give an example. A couple of summers ago, a nurse on my staff informed me that a male counselor sexually and verbally harassed one of my young nurses. I confirmed this with the nurse involved, and I asked her why she did not come to me with this problem. "I was afraid you would go off." was her answer. Well, I did go off! I stomped over to the Camp Director and asked him to fire this guy. "NO ONE will treat my nurses this way!" I had seen enough horizontal violence back in my hospital days. The Director interviewed the counselor, and the counselor stopped working at our camp the next day.

    The next spring, I asked the nurse to work another summer with us, for she is a great nurse. Before orientation, during a bull session, she confessed to me that she and another nurse (a nurse I did not ask back), had gone out drinking at a local roadhouse with some of the male counselors during weekends off, during the summer past. "What!? You went drinking with kids 10 or 15 years younger than you? Are you nuts?" That male counselor was still guilty of harassment, but my nurses "lowered the bar," and lost some respect that isolation would have gained them. That year, and ever after, I tell my nurses during orientation something like, "I cannot control what you do on your days off, but I would prefer that you NOT socialize with camp staff. Go home on your down time and hang out with your friends. I am no prude, and I do not mind if you have a drink on your days off, as long as you are off-campus. But I might get grumpy and irritable if I hear you are partying with camp staff." This applies to my new grad nurses, also. The issue has not come up since then, luckily.

    I do know of a case where one of our nurses married a former camp director years ago, but it didn't last.

    Okay, so we Camp Nurses get lonely. What should we do? Just because we should keep a professional distance from our colleagues, does not mean we should be isolated from everyone. It is important to talk to our families daily while at camp. The nurse should join in camp activities, when appropriate. For me, camp activities wear thin pretty quickly. I have several hobbies that I work on daily. I make sure I have a good internet connection by using my own data card. A data card means you can do your banking and pay bills safely. Don't do these things on the public camp network. I read, I play guitar, I Skype home. I am also very good at doing absolutely nothing, a skill that should be nourished.

    I am the head nurse, and I make sure I do not hang out with my nursing staff too much. I figure I am bound, sooner or later, to say something offensive. I do invite my staff to dinner at my house a couple of times a month, and my staff know they can come to my house, in twos, any time, usually to have a snack and to tell war stories, or to watch something on the satellite dish.

    A prospective camp nurse should come to camp prepared to be isolated. You will make friends, some you will never forget. The real opportunity here, though, is to take professional and social isolation, turn it inside out, and to end up with something good.
    SnowShoeRN, Fox_RuN, and teeniebert like this.
  6. 1
    Thank you both for your responses, and CampNurse, I wish I had read this posting before or even during my experience. It would have helped me put things in perspective. I understand the need for a divide between the ages and positions. Our camp did discourage fraternization to an extent. There was a "team" of the higher-up management that the nurses technically belonged to, but all we got was the T-shirt, literally. We still were not really a part of them. Plus, the director spoke to me twice the entire summer. This year I am searching for a camp where I'm a short drive home (within 90 minutes). I'm a very social, friendly person and if I cannot have any real friend connections, I'd like to have access to my friends back home on my days off!
    teeniebert likes this.
  7. 0
    Hi,
    I have worked at a competitive sports camp the last three summers in Vermont. I am looking to work at a camp that is not specifically competitive and where there is more down time and I would have some other nurses as co-workers. Would you share with me the name of the camp you worked at?
    Thank you!
  8. 1
    To Campnurse1....Maybe this really is EXACTLY what I need. I need a nursing job with autonomy that lets me be my quiet, introspective self. Just playing my guitar, reading, fishing. A job that keeps my nursing skills sharp, but lets me enjoy the woods I so desperately crave right now...
    NCmcMan likes this.


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