When I tell people I'm spending my summer at camp, I feel like they all think that I just magically run away and play in the woods like peter pan. The truth is the amount of thoughts and actions that go into leaving for eight or nine weeks is pretty staggering. I have it pretty easy compared to others. I only choose camps within driving distance, I have never worked more than three hours away. It still takes a bit of doing to pull it off though. God bless you poor bastards who fly across the country to do this job, you're braver than I am.
Every year the task to do first is to start separating from my jobs. I work home health PDN, so I am always considered a PRN employee. I have to carry my own benefits, and have no sick or vacation time to deal with, so there are only a few hurdles to clear. About six months before I plan to be on camp, before the contract is even a thought, I start talking to my schedulers, letting them know that camp is in the plans for next summer. That way they cannot pretend to be surprised by it when things start to get official. Any new cases that I take on, I mention that I leave for the summer every year, so they aren't surprised. It sounds like overkill but people at work and the clients themselves get pretty upset if they feel like you left them high and dry without notice. As soon as the contract with camp is signed I email and call the office to let them know my last day on the schedule. This gives them plenty of time to try and find replacements.
I have a side business teaching CPR so my regular clients are treated the same as my employer, lots of advance notice and reminders. My first year at camp, I scheduled a replacement instructor for the time I was away, but this met with mixed reviews from the clients. It was also a real nightmare when the instructor I scheduled backed out less than an hour before a class. So now I work with the client to schedule classes early in the month that I leave and late classes the month that I return, this means they only miss one class and seems to make everyone happy.
I own a house, and as all homeowners know that is a never ending list of things to do and take care of. This all falls to my wife Sara now. She's amazing by the way! The house ends up being the least of my worries since she came into my life. Previous to her I had some real mixed results with house sitters.
My father lives in a nursing home due to a neurological condition that has afflicted him with several strokes over the past five years. My mother lives independently and is doing well with managing her medical conditions. Besides making sure everyone knows how to get a hold of me on camp, the nursing home included. I'm cautiously optimistic that this may be a low-stress year in relation to my parents. Although past experience tells me that one of them generally has a health crisis at least once a summer while I'm away. I have had to accept that I just have to take those as they come.
The new big worry this year is my son. I took last year off as William was only six months old when camp was starting, and only five months out of the NICU. I did manage to go up for a few weeks to help set up, but a full season was out of the question. This year he will be 18 months old, so more able to be on camp. Sara has to stay home and work, so William will come to camp with me for the summer. My camp is amazing in that they have hired a nanny for him, and I plan to bring him back home to visit about every two weeks on my day off. Packing up and moving a toddler away from his mother is defiantly the x-factor in this year's camp plan. I hope we all have a good summer and can make the arrangements work. Obviously, my future in the camp nurse specialty depends on striking a work-life balance somewhere in these very odd circumstances.
All the preparation in thought and actions all lead to the morning that I drive off to camp. It's amazing looking back on it all, how much I arrange my life around camp. It has been a huge factor in my life, and I hope that it continues to be a positive experience. Five years at camp is a long time, every year is different for camp and for me, I will try and keep notes on how this year goes, and how my family feels about camp. Check back for updates.