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Adventures of a Summer Camp Nurse

For many school nurses, the summer months provide a much-needed and well-deserved respite to rest and recharge. Some may take all the time they get to travel or focus on hobbies or interests. In contrast, others might use the break to further their education or participate in professional development opportunities. While the flexibility of extended time off during the summer months is often considered a significant benefit to being a school nurse, it can also mean that school nurses might be looking for supplemental income or short-term positions that utilize their skills and experience. With more than 14 million kids being served in summer camps in the United States each year, according to the American Camp Association, nurses seeking extra earnings or a professional side hustle have the opportunity to provide care and support to children in a fun-filled, recreational setting.

The Alliance for Camp Health (formerly the Association of Camp Nursing) defines camp nursing practice as "the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, facilitation of healing, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of campers, camp staff, and the camp community." The autonomy and broad scope of responsibilities are generally very similar to school nursing, but potentially caring for kids overnight or in significantly secluded, remote, or rugged environments can offer a valuable learning experience for school nurses already equipped with the tremendous expertise required to practice in unique and somewhat isolated settings.

School nurses considering a camp nurse role should take into account several factors when exploring or accepting camp nurse positions.

  1. Setting and Activities

School nurses should evaluate their familiarity with the camp's environmental elements and activities to appropriately prepare for the different types of injuries, illnesses, and emergencies that could potentially arise.

  1. Medical Equipment and Resources

School nurses should consider medical equipment and supplies available at the camp. They should inquire about the types of first-aid kits, AEDs, EpiPens, and other emergency medications the camp provides and ensure they are trained in their use.

  1. Staff Training and Communication

School nurses should ensure proper training and orientation to the camp environment and communicate clearly with camp staff, including administrators, counselors, and other medical personnel. This includes establishing protocols for medical emergencies and procedures for notifying parents or guardians in case of a medical issue.

  1. Insurance

School nurses should clarify if the camp nurse is covered under malpractice insurance provided by the camp and consider carrying their own liability insurance to ensure protection in the event of an adverse occurrence.

Similar to the trends seen in school nursing, the increasing demand for specialized care for campers with chronic illnesses, acute medical needs, and the growing challenges associated with emotional, social, and mental health concerns has illuminated the importance of the camp nurse role as a vital component to keeping summer camps healthy, safe, and inclusive.

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