Tips to Help You Experience Success
Linda Ebner Erceg, RN, MS, PHN
Executive Director, Association of Camp Nurses
Health & Safety Coordinator, Concordia Language Villages
Are you considering work as a camp nurse during the summer? The opportunity to be outdoors, have a job which compliments a variety of nursing skills, and work in a child-centered environment is attractive. This article provides tips to make the camp nursing experience more rewarding. The most important step is to find a camp which compliments both your style of nursing and your philosophy of health care. Just as there are many types clinics, hospitals, public health and school nursing positions, so too are there many different camps and camp directors. Residential camps have people stay overnight; some are short-term (2-3 days) while others last eight weeks or more. Day camps, like schools, send campers home every evening. Some camps program for a particular age while others provide experiences for a broad age range. Programming varies. Camps may specialize in an area (e.g. horsemanship, trip camping), offer high adventure programs (e.g. white-water canoeing), or provide a broad, general program with waterfront activities, archery, crafts, tenting experiences, and/or various sports. Camps are administered by different groups. Churches, agencies such as Scouting or the YMCA/YWCA, and private individuals are involved. The American Camp Association (ACA), a group which promotes the professional camp experience, says that there is a camp for everyone. Determine if the type of camp you are considering is a good fit for you. Realize that the camp's program, clientele, length of season, staff, and administrative directives all impact health care delivery.
Also consider why you are interested in camp nursing. The most successful camp nurse has a genuine interest in being at camp, enjoys the type of people for whom they provide care, and likes being part of a team. Be a camp nurse because the opportunity intrigues you.
Contact the ACA bookstore at 1-800-428-CAMP to order the current Guide to Accredited Camps for a national listing of ACA accredited camps. Camp directors need nurses and often have difficulty locating people who would be interested. Some directors advertise in nursing publications. Prospective applicants generally discover that their inquiry is genuinely appreciated.
Once contact has been made but before accepting a position, there are several things to consider. First, determine if the camp is ACA accredited. Accreditation is not required in order for a camp to operate, but it is an excellent indicator of the camp administration's commitment to quality camp programming. If a camp is not accredited, be sure to ask why; accreditation could very well be in process. Ask for a copy of the camp's health care plan. This describes the health needs of the camp population and defines the camp's philosophy of health care. Have it and a copy of the job description, camp brochure and health form sent for review. Camp nurse applicants usually speak with the camp director. Ask the director to describe the following:
- A typical day in the life of their camp nurse.
- Approximate number of people seen daily at the health center and for what reasons.
- A description of the type of care the administration wants the nurse to provide.
- Who supervises the nurse as well as who the camp nurse supervises.
- The relationship of the nurse to other staff members (e.g. head cook, counselors, waterfront manager).
- Amount of time spent on paperwork and a description of that work (e.g. insurance forms, health log, worker comp records).
- The camp nurse's role in communicable disease control and risk management.
- Salary, housing, time-off, additional benefits (e.g. participation in a Camp Nurse Workshop, membership in Association of Camp Nurses).
- Additional healthcare supports (e.g. collaborating physician, standing orders, clinic/hospital, pharmacy, crisis response team, dentist, EMS).
- Other information which the director feels is important.
Camp nursing practice can be an empowering and wonderful experience. It is also work. Over five million children attended camp last summer and many went without a nurse. Camps need nurses. It is a practice setting where comfort with autonomy is necessary, where the working day may not be defined by eight hours, and where the professional nurse is valued. Camp practice enjoys the zest of young people and the serenity of campfires, a sunrise over the lake, and crickets chirping. Consider joining those of us who are already a part of it. Be a camp nurse.
Looking for a particular type of camp, one in a particular location, or one with a certain type of program? Check ACA’s Guide to Accredited Camps by calling 1-800-428-CAMP or check out Peterson’s Guide on the Internet.