A Camp health center is like a septic system

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    Words of wisdom, and wit regarding the nurses role in camp.Over the past few years I have developed several colorful sayings that I think encapsulate camp life as a nurse. One I told to my camp director on the first week during lunch when she asked me what I thought the role of the health center was in camp. I replied, "A health center is like a septic system" she was puzzled and asked me to explain. I happily elaborated. "You see, everybody needs the septic system, but no one spends a lot of time thinking about it. You just want it to work 100% of the time, and if it doesn't; it's a big, expensive, time consuming mess. You don't advertise that your camp has a septic system, but it needs one, and if you have a bad one everyone will know about it."

    Like a septic system a little maintenance and prevention goes a long way. I like to be proactive in avoiding injures, making sure your camp has a culture of safety will go a long way to reducing business in the health center. Accidents happen, however every accident should involve the question of how can we keep this from happening again. Making sure that counselors have basic knowledge of first aid, and things parents know that college kids don't, goes a long way to preventing and identifying problems when they are small and manageable.

    Some of my favorite topics to work into conversation are things like checking for ticks every four hours or so; making sure the kids change out of wet swim suits; changing socks every day; applying sunscreen frequently; and my favorite WASHING YOUR HANDS.

    We also make clear that some things must come to clinic immediately; crusty eyes, wounds with drainage, and confirmed fevers should be reported as soon as possible. This seems like common sense, however I have cringed more then once when a child with an obvious case of conjunctivitis reports at noon saying that he woke up with his eye glued to the pillow this morning. The happiest camper is the one who avoids the health center with simple prevention, the second happiest is one who makes a speedy trip through do to staff education.

    Maintaining contact with counselors and leaders about concerns is also critical. I have caught several a case of impetigo or strep throat by simply walking the bunk line and checking in. Often some of the worst cases will just say something in passing about a bad rash or a persistent sore throat, then a simple on the spot exam reveals a raging communicable disease. I also regularly find staff who are neglecting themselves health wise.

    They would never come up to clinic call, but are more than happy to show me their athletes foot on the bunk line. Support staff are of special concern, the kitchen, operations, and excursion staff should be checked in with regularly, as their schedule may not allow them to present to clinic at clinic call times. (also a cared for kitchen staff will make sure you get fed)

    Camp nursing differs from other settings because healthcare and nursing are not the primary focus of the staff around us. Some nurses have trouble understanding this. In a hospital or other health care facility all support services revolve around the patents health and well being. However the primary goal of camp is fun, and we often have to adapt our practice around that rather then camp bending to our needs.

    Camp nursing is a rewarding and unique specialty, one with many challenges both personally and professionally. Often the most successful camp nurses are masters of not just nursing skills, but of the many interpersonal interactions and relationships with staff, campers, and families. Nurses should try to integrate into camp culture as much as possible.

    We as camp nurses should try and view the health center as a vital support component, we exist to make sure medical needs are met, and people are safe. If we are doing our job correctly most of camp will never have to put much thought into our existence, however our jobs, like so many at camp are vital to operations but mostly unseen by the campers and consumers.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jan 15, '15
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    About Alex Egan, LPN, EMT-B

    I am an LPN and EMT. I have been a camp nurse for three years, and have learnt more at it then I have ever expected...some of the things I learnt were also about nursing.

    Joined: Dec '09; Posts: 836; Likes: 1,901
    Peds PDN; from PA , US
    Specialty: 9 year(s) of experience in Home Health (PDN), Camp Nursing

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