Volunteer Camp Nurse

Midwest, USA – July, 1980

The various Bible churches in the state have joined together to have a Bible camp for one week for children who attend Bible Clubs and teen Bible classes ages 8-18 years old. We rent a state park that has a group campground with a large lodge with dining hall and kitchen, clinic cabin, and 32 cabins which each hold 8 children and one counselor. It is set among the green hills in a beautiful rural setting and has a lake for swimming.

We split the children into two separate camps. Junior camp is for ages 8-12, and senior camp is for ages 13-18. All the speakers, counselors, kitchen staff, and nurse volunteer for the week. It is very exhausting and hot and humid this time of year, but it is worth it all when we see children receive Christ as their personal Savior and others yield their life to the Lord. My sister, Linda, tried to be the speaker and camp nurse last year, but it was too much for one person. Often the nurse gets awakened at night. So I volunteered to be the nurse this year rather than a counselor as I was last year.

Lake where I was lifeguard and nurse at Bible Camp.

Lake where I was lifeguard and nurse at Bible Camp.

I began to prepare by reading through the manual for camp nurses from the American Camp Association. We copied their health information sheet to hand out to the campers to have their parents complete and give us on the first day of camp. I also replenished our first aid supplies from the previous year, made copies of the medication administration sheets, and read all the treatments for the most common injuries that were likely to occur. I prayed that God would give me wisdom in handling every situation. I was so glad Linda would be on the grounds as a backup consultant! She has years of experience with pediatric nursing, whereas I have none other than my experience in nursing school.

The children all arrived with their parents Sunday afternoon. I sat at the registration desk with the camp directors and reviewed each health information form with the child’s parents. I collected all the prescription medications and marked on my record the child’s name, medicine, time, and dose so I could bring it to him in the dining hall at mealtimes. Only two children had asthma with inhalers. We gave their rescue inhaler to their counselor so they would have it in the cabin at night in case they had an asthma attack. All the cabins were at the top of very long hills, so it would be too long a hike at night to the nurse’s cabin in the valley near the lodge.

I knew from experience that none of the campers or counselors would get much sleep Sunday night because of their excitement and the occasional mice and bats that invariably came in the cabins after dark! The rest of the week, they would sleep well  from sheer exhaustion despite the critters. Monday we all began to settle into the routine of wake-up , personal devotions and Bible memorization, breakfast when I administered the majority of the scheduled medications, cabin clean-up, Bible lesson,  swimming, lunch, rest period, group games, crafts, dinner, and evening Bible lesson and group activity.

The most common complaint was homesickness, especially among the 8 year-olds who would complain of a “stomach ache” if they couldn’t quite admit they were homesick. I prayed with them and encouraged them to keep busy so the time would pass quickly. Sometimes it worked, but sometimes it didn’t. Occasionally, the camp director had to call  parents who chose to pick up their child and take them home.

One of the campers, Becky, stumbled over a log and fell on her arm. Her counselor brought her to the clinic and I cleaned her abrasion and applied a dressing. Her wrist was bruised, swelling, and very painful when she tried to move it. I suspected a fracture, so the camp director called her parents while I applied a splint and sling. The director drove her to the closest emergency room 45 minutes away where her parents met them. Sadly, it was broken, so Becky went home after getting her cast put on.

Other things I treated were bee stings, splinters, abrasions, headaches, and upset stomach. It was exhausting as I felt like I was on call the entire week with no down time. But overall, I enjoyed it and was thankful for the opportunity to serve the campers so they could hear the Bible and learn about the Lord Jesus Christ!

But Jesus said, Permit little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:14

My fun duty was to be cabin inspector along with one of the cooks. After the morning Bible lesson, we would announce each cabin’s score from 1 (filthy) to 10 (sparkling clean). The kids were very competitive and began making elegant signs by the end of the week to welcome us to their cabin! On Friday, the cabin with the highest score for the week was presented a beautiful cake at lunchtime. I also enjoyed being the camp lifeguard during the swimming sessions.

As the week progressed, the Bible lessons began to sink into their hearts and several received Christ as their personal Savior. On Thursday night, they had a group campfire which was very moving and quite a few more received Christ, including Amanda, one of the teens from the Bible class I taught! Friday night, the campers’ parents arrived for the closing program. The speaker had a clear gospel message followed by a fun time where each cabin did a funny skit. We all laughed so hard that we were in tears!

Reflection – 2014

I am thankful I had the opportunity to be a camp nurse where many children received Christ as their personal Savior over the years. About ten years ago, when I was between jobs as a nurse practitioner, I interviewed to be a camp nurse for the entire summer.  But somehow, in my middle-age years, I decided it didn’t sound quite so appealing nor did I have the energy to do it.

In doing some online searching, I came across an excellent book called The Basics of Camp Nursing by Linda Erceg and Myra Pravda. I also found some excellent tips on how parents can prepare their children for camp and prevent homesickness. http://www.acacamps.org/media-center/how-to-choose/homesickness

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