Camp Nursing Experience

One of the fun parts about being a travel nurse, is that you can also be a nurse in environments other than a hospital.  Most people think travel nurses are only used in hospitals, but there are so many more opportunities including: camps, nursing homes, long-care facilities, cruise ships (definitely on my list!), and still many more.

This summer, I was crunched on time due to other commitments, and could not fit in a full 13-week assignment.  One of my fellow travel co-workers suggested that I look into camp jobs.  She told me how her and her boyfriend take a break from the hospital and work at a camp every summer.  So I took her up on the idea and ended up spending 6 weeks of my summer working as a nurse at a summer camp!

Finding a Job

How did you find a job as a camp nurse?  Was this assignment through your agency?  These are a few of the common questions I got asked about camp nursing, so let me inform you how I found a job as a camp nurse.  It was literally the easiest thing ever.  First off: no, this was not through my travel agency.  Go to Indeed.com and put “camp nurse” in the search tab and, bam, you have hundreds of job positions at your fingertips.  I had no idea that there were so many job opportunities to work as a camp nurse until I started looking and then the options were endless.  While filtering through the millions of job ads I kept a few things in mind.

  1. Pay – I wanted to make sure that the camp position I was taking would pay high enough so that I would not have to take a major pay cut from the regular travel positions.  I set a price limit of how low I would go and searched for anything above that number.  I also kept in mind housing and food options, though most camps included the housing and food.
  2. Location – Since I wanted to treat this as a travel assignment, I looked for camps in states and locations I have not yet worked in.  I also kept in mind other cities in the states I was looking at in case I wanted to go back and do a hospital assignment since I would have the state license already.
  3. Type of Camp – Summer camps are loads of fun which I wanted to have as well, so I looked into the different activities and facilities the camps had to offer.  There were some camps that had a lot of outdoor activities, there were fitness camps, there were Girl Scout camps, and performing arts camps (the type of camp I ended up at).  There were also day camps or weekend only camps.
  4. Camp Dates – Since I was on a time crunch, this factor was very important.  I had to make sure that the camp dates would work well with my schedule.  A lot of the camps had options for you such as staying a couple weeks, one month, the whole summer, or part of the summer.

Once I found several camps that I was interested in and met all my qualifications for what I was looking for, I applied to all of them.  I then waited to receive phone calls.  This step was faster than I expected as about 30 seconds after I applied I received a phone call!  I took the job and then started working on the state license application, as just like for other travel assignments you have to have your RN license in that state.

Typical Day/Camp Work

I know that each camp has a different routine or way the medical side is set up, but I will share with you what a typical day at the camp I worked at was like.

7:45am – head to breakfast to pass morning medications

8:30am – 10:30am – sick call.  This is a time where campers and staff members can come to the wellness center for treatment.  The doctor was present during these hours and the nurses were able to refer any patient to the doctor if needed.

1:00pm – head to lunch to pass lunchtime medications

5:45pm – head to dinner to pass evening medications

7:00pm – 9:00pm – sick call

9:00pm – start passing bedtime medications

11:00pm – wellness center closes. (the nurses took turns being on call for emergencies during the night).

Most of the time, the sick call hours would run late and campers or staff continued to file in line to be seen.  Even though there were set sick call hours, patients would still come any time throughout the day to be treated.  During the times when we were not treating patients, there were other tasks that had to be completed.  This included, charting, organizing patient medications, creating MARS, making parent phone calls, calling for refills at the pharmacy, restocking supplies, and wiping down the treatment room.

e8f475d5-7f0e-4544-a505-4acdc1801c2cThe main responsibilities with camp nursing were passing medications and treating patients during sick call (or really whenever someone would come through the door).  There were a few other things we also did as a camp nurse though.  We were in charge of putting together first aid kits with items such as band-aids and ointments for the departments at the camp.  Each camp session they had a race, so we would have some nurses at the end of the finish line and some nurses following behind the runners on the golf cart with first aid supplies.  This camp also took a trip each session to a Broadway show in New York City.  For this trip, we put together emergency bags for each bus going on the trip, made sure all the children on the buses would have their medications, and sent a nurse along in case of emergencies (yes, I got to be one of the nurses who went on the trip!!).

Nurses were scheduled for one break a day lasting 2-5 hours depending on the day’s schedule.  They also were on a rotating schedule for being on-call overnight.  And then there was also a schedule for day off requests – each nurse was allowed 2 days off for each 3-week period.

Common Diagnoses

Mostly we saw simple problems such as sore throats, congestion, headaches, dehydration, and sprained ankles.  There were times when mini outbreaks in the camp would occur which included the stomach virus and pink eye.  Also, we did have to send patients to the emergency room for x-rays of bones to rule out fractures, concussions, stitches for deep cuts, allergic reactions, and other more severe problems.

Camp Life

img_0677It definitely felt like you were at camp.  You slept there, ate there, and worked right along with the other staff members and campers.  Thankfully, the nurses each had their own rooms and bathrooms, so we didn’t have to worry about sharing those facilities.

The fun part about camp nursing is that during your break times, there’s always activities you can go do!  While I was there I got to do horseback riding, paddle boarding, tubing, trapeze, a zip-line & ropes course, play tennis, and attend some of the performances the campers put on.

Challenges

Though it is completely different from the hospital setting, camp nursing does come with its own set of challenges.  The days can be very busy and very long.  You are go-go-go the whole time, so by the end of the day I was always exhausted.  Nights when you were on call you would sometimes get emergencies such as a headache or not being able to sleep – this then could make for a long day if you were woken up multiple times.

You also had to use your best judgement and quickly.  It was up to you to decide if you thought the patient needed to see the doctor.  There were so many campers and staff so you had to learn to triage the patients and get them in and out as soon as possible, but with receiving the best possible care.

All-in-all I am glad that I got to experience being a camp nurse! It was fun to work in a different atmosphere and with a different patient population.  So if you’re looking for something different to try for the summer, look into camp nursing 🙂

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