Camp Nursing In Retrospect

  1. I finsihed my assignment as a camp nurse. I worked at a lovely camp in Upstate New York for 30 days. The oppourtunity was fantastic for my two children ages 11 and 13. They had the time of their lives.

    Why am I not so excited when I write this? Well, for me it was a major let down. There are many things, in retrospect, I would have done and set up differently. Most importantly, those amenities such as: days off, break time, time alone with my children, payment schedule, and my own means of transportation available when I wanted it. All this will be worked out much differently next year when I schedule with another camp.

    Yes, you can say hinde site is 20 / 20...

    Truly, my children had the time of their lives. That is ultimately why I set it up, so for that I am very grateful.

    There does not seem to be very much activity on this board. I hope we can generate some interest for conversation.

    What questions can we discuss? What have your experiences been?

    I hope to hear from you soon.
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    About nightingale

    Joined: Apr '01; Posts: 6,312; Likes: 106
    RN, CLNC, Entrepreneur


  3. by   Hooligan
    Just out of curiosity, what was your typical day like? How much involvement did you get with the campers? This is something that I'm interesting in doing someday...right now, i'm just a student...
  4. by   lindagio
    I think I would do camp nursing just for my boys to enjoy a good camp while I actually earn a paycheck.I am a recent grad and need to get my feet wet. I want to try school nursing along with camp nursing. I know th money will really stink but the experience might be worth it. Did you actually get time off or was all your time consumed withthe campers?
  5. by   Desertnurse
    I worked this summer as a camp nurse (my first time too) and came away from it exhausted but with a very happy daughter! I have some of the same concerns as you Nightingale. No car (except on days off) was a huge problem...number of days off and evenings off ...and general alone/down time was another. I was at camp for 8 weeks!

    Of course hindsight is always clearer and if I do it again next year I will definitely be better prepared.

    Would love to compare notes with you.

  6. by   renerian
    I am curious too? What was an average day like? Were you stuck someone without transportation? Did you get time off?

    Let us know as I always wanted to try it...

  7. by   nightingale
    I responded to one of the questions posed here so I will post the link and response:

    Our camp did not have a theme other then varied sports and social events. There were weekly overnights of campers. There was also a week long trip by the oldest teen group of about a dozen teens and approximately 5 counselors.

    At the start of camp we performed head/lice check of all the 300 or so campers. The age's ranged from 7 years to 18 +. WE also proved the head/lice checks to the camp counselors, instructors, and teachers.

    We organized medical slips with permission slips and Mars. We had "pill call" each day after meals. We organized and set up pills for counselors who had those campers on overnights such as camping out; this happened approximately once a week for a small percentage of campers and the list of campers rotated. There were approximately 60 campers who took pills regularly. Most pills were taken in the morning with some having pills up to three times a day. WE also held onto PRN meds the campers and counselors had.

    We had "sick call" twice a day after breakfast and after dinner hour. We were available 24/7 for emergencies for all campers and staff. To be honest, there were a lot less sick calls during the middle of the night then I expected; I would approximate it at 3-5 times in an weekly.

    There were three of us nurses available. AT the time, all three of us were RN's. A third nurse was to rotate in as an LPN. Time off really varied. There were three days off that were not 24-hour days for each of us. Although the head nurse, had weekends off to accommodate her other job.

    Quite frankly, I was pretty bored. I looked forward to some opportunities for wellness teaching and that was really not encouraged. In fact, there was little teaching done at the clinic and when I pointed this out I was laughed at. I felt rather sorry at times for those kids who really just wanted to come down for a break from the grind of their busy schedules; this was discouraged and simply not allowed in most cases. Do not get me wrong, the letter of health care was done but there were missed opportunities that were not allowed. One counselor pointed out how simple hand washing teaching to the cabins could have minimized many colds there were being spread; so I taught the counselor how to teach the kids.


    Additionally Desert and Renerian, to respond to your questions, let me point out that I was VERY bored. There were days where it was exciting because of the children's activites. There were days where I simply had to wait at the Infirmary for something to happen. I did not like the later. We did have walkie talkies but I was expected to wait at the infirmary for coverage.

    A typical day:

    0800 Wake Call via loudspeaker of trumpet or revelry

    0830 Start of Breakfast at dinner hall

    0930 Pill Distribution outside of dining hall (approx. 5 dozen)

    1000 Sick Call - the other nurse would start sick call at the infirmary while pills were distributed - it usually lasted 30 to 45 minutes.

    12:15 Lunch at dining hall Afternoon meds distributed after luch outside of dining hall

    5:00 PM Dinner at dining hall or sometimes at outside benches for a barbecue (yummmm) Evneing meds distributed after the meal

    Evening sick call was after dinner but I can not remember the time. I think it was right after dinner. We also did another pill distribution and check up around 9 for a few children who had special care needed like asthmatics. This was a very unpopular one as the kids really wanted stay at their bunks or the evening activities etc... We did do a minimal med distribution at that time as well.

    Throughout the day we dealt with emergencies. It was pretty easy. We had lots of bee stings and bumbs and bruising, especially around the times of competitive events. Towards the end we started getting the flu infestations, ear infections, etc... I went to the hospital a couple of times with injuries and to the DR. office about 15 minutes away with sore throats and suspect ear infections.

    All in all --- it was quite easy, responsibliity wise. There were very few "in the middle of the night" emergencies. We rotated, between thr three of us, the evening on call.

    In retrospect, I would be sure to have my own car. I am used to making my own decisions about when and where I go. I thought, through conversations made, that I would have more help with rides etc. It simply was hit or miss. One morning, one of the other nurses waited several hours for a ride from the director for her day off; while sitting on the bench, dressed and ready to go, she was informed that there was a change in plans. Well, what are you gonna do? Not much... walk into town 2 miles away and get a pizza? Yeah you could.. but it was dissapointing for her. Fortunately, for her, the other nurse was kind enough to loan her her car for a few hours.

    The commodities were: transportation, food, and treats. I smuggled candy in for my kids from the beggining. Many of the kids had the taboos that were a big no-no from the beggining. It was most comical to see the artful ways the kids made do with the existing heirarchy.

    Overall it was vey pleasant, especially to see how my kids enjoyed themselves. I will deffinitely be more clear and have more in writing of those issues that I am counting on.

    I do not think I was treated with a professionalism that I expected. I do not want to make this personal because it was not. Most of the leaders had the same complaints; we were highly controlled. We were told to not wear caps a certain way as this looked "gang-ish", nor could we die our hair blond because several members did this and it looked too clickish, (yada-yada) we were told we could participate in any of the actiivties but when we did we were questioned in front of other leaders to be sure "our chores" were done and that we really did have coverage while we were taking our break. It was most degrading for me to go to events only to be embarrassed in front of colleagues with the third degree (everyone had this complaint).

    I will not go into anymore personally then that. I do want to say that there was an overall feeling of mistrust for one another and a gossip chain that was not positive and was hard to avoid in the loop. I often did not sit at the "Director Table" because I feel I was being pumped for information rather then allowed to relax and be treated as an equal. Thre was an undercurrent of disrepect and mistrust. At one point,l I anounced that I thought it was like a prison or honor farm. Slowly the other leaders would then share their stories and real selves with me. It was all rather odd and so very different then what I expected (hind site is 20/20).

    Again, I would recommend it in a heart beat to anyone. Just know what you are getting into when you get there.

    There is a great list of questions you can ask when interviewing for a prosective job at the ACN Nursing website. It would have helped emmensely if I had been more thorough with those type of questions. Here is that website:

    I hope this helps. I encourage you to follow your dreams. Let us know how we can help in that endeavor. Thank you for asking for further explanation. And yes, I plan to work next summer... but somewhere else.

  8. by   Desertnurse
    Let me point out that the ACN website is not only a wonderful source of information but the people behind the scenes are absolutely top notch in the field of camp nursing. I attended the camp nurse workshops they held this year in Bimidji at the ACN headquarters (Wilderness first aid for nurses and 'bats bugs and bandaids, a nurse goes to camp'). I cannot say enough good things about the course or the people running it. I met friends for life there at that workshop and it was a real bonding experience for all of us attending. If there is any way you can get to this workshop next year, you will not be disappointed. It was extremely benefical to first time camp nurses and to returning nurses. There was something for everyone. The instructors and facilitators were professional and knowledgable and genuinely loved camp nursing.
    The book "The Basics of Camp Nursing" written by Linda Erceg and Myra Pravda is an excellent resource as well. By the way, both of these women ran the course in Bimidji and they are two of the nicest camp nurses you will ever have the pleasure of meeting!
    Honestly I cannot say enough good things about ACN and I only just discovered it when I started looking into camp nursing for the summer. After I found their site I did not look any further. I signed up for their course and found a camp nursing job listed on their site. I was not disappointed with either.

    I think my biggest disappointment in this whole ordeal was when I realized that all camp nurses are not all as wonderful as the ones I met in Bimidji with ACN!!

    I was never bored at camp, we just had too much to do and there was always something going on. However I did find it a bit lonely. You must realize that the average age of counsellors is about 19 or 20....well I was old enough to be mothers to 99% of the camp counsellors. There was just no one my age to talk to except the doctors and their wives...and thank goodness they were there.

    Also, you really must have a car. It will make a huge difference with your own transportation on days off. I also felt like I was in prison at first...trapped in the wilderness with no way out! Ha ha, and we were miles from anywhere, there were no walks to town. It took 15 minutes just to get to the rite aid by car...25 to the walmart and almost an hour to get to a decent shopping mall! Three things that I could have done to make life easier for me...1) a car. 2)a laptop computer 3) have the phone line in my room hooked up from day one instead of waiting for almost 4 weeks to have it done.
    As far as our routine, well it was similar to Nightingales. The work is not hard work it is just that you are working all the time. Eight weeks and not one day to sleep late unless it was your day off...but who wants to sleep in on your day off? I was up and out of there on my day off! We were supposed to get one day off per week but I ended up with only 5 full days off and 2 partial days.

    Would I do it again? Certainly!
  9. by   nightingale
    Thanks for the feedback DesertNurse; it is good to hear your honest feedback.
  10. by   AngeloftheER
    I was a camp nurse for Camp Cedar in Maine.... and let me tell you we were treated like gods and goddesses. We had access to all the camp vehicles, did our own schedule, and participated in any of the camp activities.
    We had to stay for 9 weeks. My son came with me. It was an experience that neither of us will ever forget.
    I guess what I am saying is that if you plan on camp nursing again....please look into Camp Cedar in Casco, Maine.
    Its an all boy camp.
    Yes we worked our tails off but we had a blast.
  11. by   nightingale
    Thanks for responding Angel. How did you find the camp? Could you talk about your typical day, compensation, and commitments of time etc...
  12. by   AngeloftheER
    I found Camp Cedar in the back of a Nurses Magazine. The compensation wasnt much......$3,000 for the 9 weeks plus travel. It also included the $6,000 tuition for my son and both of our room and board.
    Typical day..... starts around 7:30 where one nurse would go to the dining hall and pass morning meds as the campers came to eat. Med passes were done before each meal and bed time. Clinic was held after meals. We needed to close all the blinds and lock the doors after each clinic or we found that we never got a break from the boys. A simple sign on the door about clinic hours and for emergencies to go to the office and have us paged. That allowed for us to have some time to hit the lake and relax. I did alot of the med passes. I got all the med ready for the enitre day before I went to bed. The other 2 nurses ran the clinics. We all had atleast one 24 hour day off per week. We also we arranged 2 - 48 hours periods of rest during the summer. The camp was awesome about letting us use one of their vans to leave camp. My son played "hooky" from camp once a week and we went on ventures. Used the camp van and went to the beaches and one day went to Boston.
    I cannot say enough about the Camp Cedar Family. I would go back again in a heart beat if I could arrange the time off work. One of the 2 nurses I worked with has gone back every year since and I am sooooooooooooooo jealous. LOL Anyway... I hope that I answered your questions.
    P.S. We had a doctor all summer long too which was awesome. Not all camps staff a doctor.
  13. by   nightingale
    Thanks for the feedback Angel. It is good to hear of your positive experience!
  14. by   Desertnurse
    Gina (angel),
    Glad you had a great experience at Camp Cedar! Hey, I think I know the nurse that worked there with you...he is still there and what a wonderful person he is! Since he comes back every year, he is very organized and has the work schedule figured out to optimize days/time off for the nurses. He is an ACN member and dedicated to camp nursing and it makes huge difference to work with someone who really cares about their job. He came over to my camp and gave me some advice and moral support one day, after I sent him an email sobbing about a particularly difficult day. I would love to work with him but I have a daughter and Camp Cedar is all boys. Some of the brothers of my campers went to Cedar though, since my all girls camp was very close to them.

    This brings up another topic to consider when choosing a camp. You need to ask if there are any nurses from previous camp sessions that will be returning. It will make a world of difference to have someone who knows the ropes alongside you.

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