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 experience. Here is part two of my life experience with camp nursing.
In 2012, I returned to IHC. I felt I wanted a second round with this thing. While 2011 was a pretty good year, I spend half of it not knowing a Comanche from a Chief; I got it all done, but I knew I could do better. This year was my victory lap, my great adventure. I felt confident in the job and myself. After leaving camp in 2011 I started online dating, which was a big jump for me. I had never really dated before “I'm not ready to settle down so why bother”, was my way of thinking. I met my wife, Sara, on the first date I went on. We hit it off immediately, and one of the first things I made clear was that I was going to camp. For us, long distance dating for a few months was kind of fun. We exchanged letters, and she even came up for a visit on my day off where we escaped to a local B&B. She visited around camp and met all the characters that I had been telling her about. The year was amazing. The staff was awesome, we worked together well, there were no major issues in the health center or the camp, it was a year of unusual calm. So calm in fact we all played a lot of cards to pass the time.
2013 was another great camp year. We called it 2012 part two. A lot of returning staff made start-up a breeze. Which was good because there were major issues when the camp tried to switch pharmacy vendors. We didn't get our drugs delivered until the day before the kids arrived. If there had not been so many staff who already know how to set up the meds we would have been in a real bind. A major outbreak of impetigo led to the creation of the scrub club, a tactic that we haven't had to employ again thankfully. Sara and I were married about a month before camp started, and had a short first honeymoon due to a cruise ship mishap. We managed to get a few visits with each other over the summer. My coworkers even threw us a camp wedding in the health center with a heart shaped caked topped with tongue depressor bride and groom. On the home front though my parents were beginning to have issues. In 2006 my father had been diagnosed with cerebral amyloid angiopathy. This had caused him to have a series of strokes, rapidly leading to his full disability. As his health declined my mother became his full-time caregiver, which absolutely didn't help her mental health. They attempted to move in with my brother, who ended up evicting them a week before our wedding. Getting them moved and settled prior to camp was very stressful. Sara and my aunt helped them out while I was away and I called my mother to check in several times a week. It seemed to go fairly well, but being far away when help was needed was a major stress.
2014 was a pretty normal camp year, as far as the business of camp and the health center went. No major conflicts or issues that I can recall. Truthfully my body was on camp but my mind was everyplace else. Sara and I had decided to try for a baby, with great results. She got pregnant the first month we started trying and was about two months along by the time camp rolled around. The thought of being a father was unexpectedly hard for me. I had been depressed on and off for most of the year and the upcoming change in roles was impossible to wrap my head around. I got a lot of good advice from an amazing nurse, Cody, about parenting and fatherhood, as well as from my boss and her husband. Watching them with their kids around camp was the most reassuring thing to me, that they obviously made the whole family thing work, and so could I. My parents had moved into a senior living/disability friendly apartment complex; however the situation surrounding the care of my father was tenuous by the time I left for camp. Things had been fairly good when I signed the contract for 2014, but in the months in-between my mother's mental health was becoming even worse, and although my father was still well cared for, no one was sure how long the situation could last. The plan again was to have Sara and my aunt help out and for me to call frequently. There were issues almost from the start, but they were minor and able to be handled without me. I was constantly worried, and just waiting for the phone call saying that I had to come home right now because of some emergency. In the last week of camp, things became even worse on the home front. Once the campers were on the bus home I was packed and driving within an hour. When I arrived home I ended up moving in with my parents for about a week, and ultimately checking my mother into the hospital for five weeks, and placed my father into a LTC facility. (As of the date of this post my mother is doing much better,living independently and in much better control of her disease process. My father remains in LTC on hospice)
2015 was the first year that I was not able to return to Indian Head Camp for a full 9 week season. My son William was only six months old at the start of camp, so I decided to spend a few weeks at IHC helping them get set up and train the new nurses. After two weeks at IHC, I decided to take a camp position closer to home. I worked at the John Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) Lancaster location. CTY was a very different organization than IHC. The students were all there to take high-level classes, like Data Structures and Algorithms, Paleobiology, or Number Theory. Every student was extraordinarily intelligent, to an unbelievable level. I was hired as the night nurse five night a week, ten hours a night. I would go to the site, help with bedtime medication, then tend to the inpatients, and any after hours emergencies. I ended up doing quite a bit of overtime helping out on the day and evening shift, as the last three weeks of the season they were very short staffed. I didn't mind because the pay was hourly and overtime! My experience at CTY was mediocre at best. The management was not incredibly supportive, in fact, they were completely hands off. There was no nurse manager or manager of our department at all. This led to a lot of confusion and frankly if all but two of the staff had not been returners we would have been sunk. I met a lot of great kids and some really great nurses. I however decided not to return to CTY for the 2016 season. It just wasn't a great fit for me. Mostly it felt more like a college than a camp, and I didn't enjoy that so much. That isn't to say that CTY and especially the Lancaster site doesn't have a wild culture for the students, a student-run website www.realcty.org provides an inside look.
The 2016 camp season is only a few weeks away. This year I will be returning to Indian Head Camp. My old bosses are still there working to make the place better every year. The management is the same lovely family, who actually know my name when I see them. I really looking forward to returning. I will be staying for the whole nine weeks, and will have my 18-month-old along for the summer. Sara is unable to join us this year, so she will be visiting us and I will be bringing William down for visits with the extended family. It's a big change from previous years where camp was all about me, and my get away. I'm excited to see how this goes, and how the experience changes for me.
Thanks for reading