When I put up this website, my idea was to make a purely informational site, to support camp nurses of all levels of experience. I began to realize that many of the posts that I put up are opinion pieces to one degree or another. It seems unfair to offer my opinion without telling the world a bit about me and my personal experiences.
Through years of observation, I have found that the employees on any given camp fall into one of three categories. The ones who live and breath camp, the ones who are running away from their lives, and the ones who are here for the adventure. I have spent years in all three of these categories over my time at camp. Camp nursing has seen me grow as a person in every way over the 5 plus years I have spent with it. I would like to just spend a bit of time on each year both professionally and personally.
My first taste of the camp experience was at PA Vent Camp in 2009. I had transitioned from long-term care to pediatric home care full time in early 2008. I quickly made my way to trach vent cases as I enjoyed working with the technology. One of the first cases that I picked up was with a client with muscular dystrophy. Muscular dystrophy leads to profound weakness of the muscles but has no effect on cognition. My client was a perfectly age appropriate 13-year-old mentally, but relied on a ventilator and wheelchair. I was asked by my agency if I was interested in going to vent camp with him for a week. I was young and unattached so I agreed. Vent camp lasts five days for the campers, and is hosted by Camp Victory in Millville, PA. The camp is wheelchair accessible and handicap friendly, but vent camp has its own needs above what the camp provides. Half of the bunks become staff bunks, and even then a lot of folks camp out in tents for the week, each camper gets a nurse and a helper or two, depending on needs. These helpers are usually not medically trained and are generally high school or college students. The rest of the volunteers are handling activities and such. The remaining the cabins are completely emptied and hospital beds, generators, and all needed equipment for 8 ventilator dependent kids is packed into the cabin. There are about 30 campers age 7-18. It was an amazing week. Helping my camper to do all the exciting things camp had to offer, activities that are normally not available to him, such as swimming, zip lining, and giant earth ball (see picture). I spent 16 hours a day with my client and my helper, who was an architecture student that had been helping at camp for many years. Camp for these kids is something amazing. It is a week without limits, they can do any activity they wish. They are not excluded in any way, which is a stark contrast to their daily lives outside of camp. I was honored to be able to accompany my client there for two years. I was intrigued after my first year about what other camp settings were like.
2011 was the year I fled my life; 2010 had been awful. Its a long story, but I felt so bad and angry that I decided I wanted to get away and try something completely different. I was ready to be away from my life as I knew it. I applied at a bunch of camps and found one that paid best, had the longest contract, and seemed more organized than a lot that I had talked to. I accepted a contract at Indian Head Camp (IHC), and a few months later I packed the car and drove upstate. My first year at camp was, in hindsight, as challenging for the camp as it was for me. There were no returning nurses this year except the head nurse. She was busy trying to learn our first computer charting system. Also, this was the last year that we hired only five nurses, what had once been enough staff but was now stretched thin as the camp grew. I think that all the staff that year were fleeing their lives to one degree or another, and it led to enough drama that at times I felt I was in a sitcom. I learned a lot that year. Had a lot of good coworkers, who I would be friends with for years to come. One bad coworker, who was wrestling with his own demons, who taught me the benefit of letting go. I managed to pick up the tasks pretty quick, a med pass is a med pass after all, but the totality of the health center was a challenge to understand. The camp itself was an astonishing organization 600 campers and 200 staff all there for seven straight weeks. The health center operations and management was difficult to wrap my head around, but I enjoyed trying. It had its moments where I loved it, and its moments where I was about to pack up the car and leave. At the end of the season when I sat down and thought about it I decided it had been good.
In hindsight, it was the best thing for me at the time. Camp gave me the reset that I was looking for. It taught me life lessons and gave me the excitement of learning and attempting to master a completely new specialty. In 2011 I was lucky for the most part, the folks who are fleeing their lives don't do so well at camp. Camp is a marathon of long days, short nights, and high emotion, and many who don't approach it with a level head have a very bad time. After that first year, I was hooked. Please check back next week for 2012 to present.
Thanks for reading