WHAT DO CAMP NURSES DO?

The Job Description for Camp Nurses

What exactly does a camp nurse do? This is a question asked about just about every nursing speciality, and like every other speciality there are many misconceptions about what camp nursing is and is not. "that sounds like so much fun" is usually the reply I get when I tell someone that I am a camp nurse, and it's true, I do have a lot of fun. Not in the sense that they envision, I'm not just putting on a few bandaids and spending the rest of the day taking a nap or playing basketball. A camp nurse is having fun just like a labor and delivery nurse is holding babies, or a school nurse is just sitting in an office. It is part of the job, but a small part, and the day to day work is way more complicated and stressful than many realize.

The camp nurse job description varies widely from camp to camp, and state to state. a brief description of common duty's are listed below.

Medication Delivery: Nurses are responsible for the passing of routine medications, ranging from vitamins to anti-psychotics. There are between four and six medication passes a day. As a rule about ten to twenty percent of campers, in non special needs camps, will be on medication. Most medications are oral, however subQ injections, and respiratory treatments are also common.

Sick call: Nurses will be responsible for managing sick call, where campers will report with various complaints to be assessed and treated using nursing judgement and standing orders. The nurse will also be responsible for triaging more serious complaints that will need to see a camp doctor, or be transported to the emergency department.

Trip packing: Some camps will have a off camp trip program. These trips can be simple canoe day trips, or week long adventure camping and rock climbing. The nurse is responsible for making sure that routine and required as needed medications are sent along, with instructions clearly communicated to the medical leaders for the trip. Depending on the medical needs of the camper the nurse may be required to accompany campers on these trips.

First aid: First aid and emergency response is a major responsibility for the camp nurse. The support and equipment provided by a camp will vary depending on the the medical needs of the campers. In residential camp settings all manor of injury and illness can present, the nurse needs to be confident in how to manage these incidents, as the EMS response in many camp setting may be 30 minutes or more.

Community health: The camp health service also has a community health responsibility.  The nurse will be responsible to make interventions to control the spread of illness within the insular comity of camp. Lice, lyme disease, foot and mouth disease, norovirus, and viral illness are common illness that can strike the camp environment. The nurse will be the on site expert, and contact with the health department if necessary.

Parent stand in: Residential camps operate under the principle that the camp as an organization is acting "in loco parentis" in place of the parents. The camp director or administrator, and by extension the nurse management is responsible to make decisions in place of the parents if they are not available. Treatment decisions in the health domain will often be left to the nurse, especially the management of acute illness or injury.

Camps generally look for RNs with pediatric or school nursing experience. ER and office background is also a plus. However nurses with any experience will generally be considered for an open camp position, as they can be hard to fill. LPNs can generally apply to camp positions, even if they are not specifically mentioned in the wanted ad. Most camps health systems operate using a team nursing approach, so the requirement for clinical supervision can be easily satisfied in states where it is required. Education of the camp director as to the role and restrictions for LPNs in the state the camp is located may be necessary, as many do not clearly understand the difference between an LPN and RN.


Salary for camp nurses is low compared to other care settings. Nurses are generally salaried employees with pay generally in the $50-$100 per day range. Many camps offer discounted or free tuition for staff children, which makes the job appealing to many families. Generally camp nurses are in it for the adventure and the experience, rather than strictly monetary gain. I personally find camp nursing to be the most mentally stimulating and personally challenging job I have ever had. I have made lifelong friends, and grown as a person so much in my role as a camp nurse, and I welcome anyone with an interest to explore opportunities in this fascinating speciality.