originally posted on allnurses.com on 5/22/13 under my user name there big al lpn
I have learnt many lessons about camp nursing. It is a speciality with a steep learning curb, and a distinct lack of information.
First, there are no experts! The truth is that very few camps have full-time nurses and a lot of camps don't have many returning staff. Even those who do generally only continue camping until their life circumstances prevent them from returning. The result is that most nurses don't log enough time to really consider themselves experts.
Second, the differences in camps make complete expertise impossible; each camp is different. The practice of nursing at each particular camp has evolved to suit the particular needs of that camp. There are some similarities in practice however, an expert can really only be an expert on their particular camp, or camps with similar design and culture.
I won't claim to be an expert, because I don't think anyone can claim to be an expert on the totality of camp nursing. I am starting my third year of camp nursing. I work at a large summer camp, we keep our kids for the entire summer, and have no special needs considerations besides some ADD. These are 10 lessons I have learnt along the way. I hope they can help you.
1. Preparation is key, every minute of preparation you do before the campers arrive is worth an hour of headache later. Some things can't be accomplished until the kids arrive, but make sure everything that can be done is done. Make sure the health histories are filled out, insurance cards are copied, medication records and inventory are as complete can possibly be, and files are actually in alphabetical order. Make sure your camp first aid kits are stocked and emergency response plans are made and understood.
2. You're stuck with these people, better make the best of it. I spent half of my first summer being angry at one of my coworkers. They weren't the best employee, liked to stay out late drinking, return at all hours of the night, waking me up in the process. They couldn't do laundry or dishes. The nurse was profoundly unhappy at camp, and for about a month made me unhappy too. At about the half way mark I realized, it's actually pretty hard to get fired. No camp is going to discard an able body, and my boss was right, a poor coworker was better than a missing one. So I got some ear plugs, put on my big boy pants and just put up with it when I had to. I did my best to enjoy my job, and not focus on what I couldn't change. I wish I had done this from the start.
3. Your going to think about leaving. My first year, when I was miserable, I seriously contemplated just getting in my car and driving off. I was in a strange place, with people I didn't like, at a job I wasn't familiar with, and all this for less pay than I could make just three hours away at home. Camp is hard, and your going to want to leave. In my opinion, that's normal. Just don't leave, that's cruel to your coworkers.
4. Make low friends in high places. My second year I became friends with the kitchen, and my life changed. Suddenly I got fed, not just leftovers but real food. The health center meals got delivered on time. I also had friends for times that I was off shift. The kitchen and the nurses should, in my opinion, be fast friends. We are both in a support role at camp, we both have odd hours, and we both don't room with children. I also inherited a friend in the office, and I never couldn't find a pen again, my copies actually got done, and I got my license renewal paid for (I work in the state year round, not like the other nurses who had to travel, but he submitted it, and they paid it). I was nice to the shopper and didn't have to make the 30 minute drive into town to buy a new tooth brush when I dropped mine in the toilet. I gave her money and asked her to get it on her daily travels. I thought that I would be playing games and doing camp stuff all summer, and to an extent I did, but my friends in the other support departments make my job easier, and are all around cool people.
5. Don't make enemies! My first year the new doctor, who was only there for a week, made a big stink to the camp directors that the health center was not being cleaned enough. In her opinion all floors and common surfaces should be cleaned daily. This led to a meeting with the maintenance/cleaning team. That meeting was the last time we saw the cleaning team that year. Camp is only 8 weeks, which is plenty of time to hold a grudge. Don't make people mad when you don't have to, especially if you rely on them to make your job easier. We mopped our own floors for the rest of the summer, for which the doctor who caused the ruckus was not present anyway.
6. Know your strength and your weakness. I have a pretty strong dislike of talking on the phone. I have a blunt personality, that only about 30% of the world finds charming, and I would rather clean vomit off the floor than sit in a chair at a desk. All these things are reasons I make a bad charge nurse. All of these things are why I have only charged when there is a gun to my head. I'm not that good at it, I will help you with it, but it is not my strength. I like big projects with goals. Want all the first aid kits restocked, medications inventoried, a room reorganized? I'm your guy! You have a difficult staff member that all the other nurses don't want to deal with? IM ALL OVER IT! Camp only lasts eight weeks for me, I would rather spend it using what I am good at rather than, dragging the team down by insisting on doing things that I'm not talented at.
7. The job will take everything you give it. If you spend twenty hours a day in the health center you will find twenty hours of things to do. Know when you need to put in some extra effort to get things done, and know when it's time to call it a day. Camp is a 24-hour operation, make sure you sleep, eat, and get a day off every so often.
8. This really isn't a big deal. Maybe two or three times a year something in camp will rise to the level of emergency. Everything else is, at worst, a crisis and mostly just inconvenient . Don't panic, flip out, or spend excess worry over thing that in the big picture are small stuff. Don't fall into the trap of letting your level of concern be dictated by those around you. A camper twisting their ankle, missing a seasonal allergy med this morning, or having a fever is in fact not a five alarm emergency. They may be emergencies to the staff, camper, or parent ;but no one is going to die, so don't freak out about it.
9. Follow the campsite rule. Try to leave things in better condition than you found them. Take one thing that was a problem for you, or you had a hard time learning and make it easier for the next nurse. For me it was an actual inventory to how many first aid kits we had on camp and what was supposed to be in them. My second year it was tweaking a form so that it could be one page instead of two, and would collect data better. Those aren't big changes, but they help. For three years running, the nurse I have helped has turned out to be me, which is a win-win situation.
10. The kids are here to have fun, you're here to work. I think the most common misconception about camp is that it is fun. It will have fun parts. When you sit down and think back on it will average out to fun, but there are times when working at camp is equal to a root canal, just like every job. You will have fun, and you will enjoy yourself, especially if you can get into the mindset of camp, but if you are expecting a vacation your going to be in for a surprise.
Please add your lesson, what have you learnt that you wish you would have known on your first camp nurse job.