The Ultimate Camp Meds Guide For Parents

Injury on trail at kids summer camp

Camp Meds Is All About Your Kids Camp Medical Technician: Who Are They?  And Can They Ensure Your Kids Safety? 

The role can apply to a wide range of possible qualifications, from First Aid Certified staff all the way up to a practicing MD.  They are the only staffers or volunteers who are permitted to be alone with your kids.  

During my backcountry guiding days, I was always the medical expertise of the hiking group.  Having maintained a Wilderness First Responder certification for many years, I had a number of mental processes drilled into my muscle memory.  And I’ve even had to deal with a few ugly experiences.  Never under-estimate mother nature, she can always kick back hard!  

Then I had a short seasonal stint as a Camp Medical Technician years ago.  I consider myself quite adaptable, and able to maintain a calm head in the worst of outdoor circumstances.  I thought I could just jump into this role.  But in all honesty, that short stint ran me through a mental ringer that I had never experienced before. 

One word can sum up that experience for me, overwhelming.  This particular camp role is hands down the most mentally taxing of all the positions at camp.  And due to the volume of kids, much tougher than any of my past backcountry medical roles.  

The average week had around 60 to 80 daily dosages to manage, organize, administer, and record.  As well as several allergy concerns that would require light monitoring.  This was actually the easy part of the camp sessions, as eventually, it becomes a matter of auto-pilot with the right organization and process.  

Dealing with random and serious incidents, however, as well as a constant slew of sudden upset tummies and homesickness, proved to be more challenging.  That and the neverending struggle to find a consistent sleep schedule all proved mentally exhausting on a level that was surprising to me at the time.   I never knew before just how much was demanded of this highly important role at kids camps.

The Camp Medical Technician is the Most Important Person in Ensuring Your Kids Safety at Camp and Handling All of Their Camp Meds.

Backpacking together at camp

It is important to know how the camp defines its medical staff and their expectations of them.  If they say they have a camp nurse, then this should be a practicing nurse with a current RN license and working experience.  At outdoor science school, the district superintendent and school principals will ensure this is the case.  Always ask for the exact qualifications and make sure they are current.

Many camps use only one qualified staffer or volunteer with perhaps a couple of less qualified staffers or volunteers to assist them.  The Medical Technician will be living on-site and provide 24/7 on-call availability during the camp session.  It is not uncommon for camps and outdoor organizations to employ a full-time, seasonal camp nurse.  They should always have a strong influence on the final decisions of any off-site treatment or response.

Remember this is the only person at camp with permission to be alone with another camper.  As such, they are required to pass background checks with the FBI and/or DOJ.  They should be one of the first volunteers or staffers checked, processed, and finalized.  A Wilderness First Aid is technically an acceptable qualification, but keep in mind that they will have little experience in dealing with this volume of kids.  An active EMT or an experienced pharmacist are far better options.

Important Camp Insight To Be Aware Of For Your Kids Safety With Their Camp Meds!

If two weeks out, the camp cannot provide you with the exact details of the Camp Medical Technician, this should raise red flags.  It is VERY difficult to finalize a quality medical technician within two weeks of a camp session start.  At this point, the camp will take whoever they can get that has some kind of medical qualification and is available.

What Exactly Does The Medical Technician Do At Camp?

They will be mainly responsible for administering all of the prescribed and non-prescribed meds to all of the campers.  They will stay on top of the individual dosages and the schedule of treatments.  Keep in mind that it is not always the counselors job to remember this schedule.  The counselors are expected to know which of their kids require meds and those that are carrying their own with express parental permission.  

The Medical Technician will be at the camp check-in day collecting all of the meds and consulting with parents.  This is not an option for outdoor science school.  Those questions should be referred to the kids classroom teachers.  They will collect the campers meds and pass them on up at camp.  The Camp Medical Technician will also ensure that the kitchen staff is serving any special food, and is aware of any allergy concerns.  

Proper Camp Medical Technician Qualifications:

From Minimal Expectation To Best:

Wilderness First Aid (WFA)

This certification is a two-day course designed to introduce basic first aid to remote, outdoor situations.  They are trained for initial diagnosis and very limited short-term care.   

Wilderness First Responder (WFR) 

This certification is a more intensive 2-week course designed for diagnosis and potential longer-term care in remote, outdoor situations.  It builds on the basic first aid concepts and introduces levels of treatment and diagnosis for the common issues found on outdoor adventures.   

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)

This is a profession that requires up to 2 years of training to be certified.  It is designed for specific and immediate diagnosis, as well as short-term treatment in populated settings.  The concepts learned, and thoroughly, practiced in simulation go far deeper than the medical understanding of a WFA or WFR.  You might even encounter the odd W-EMT.  This is someone who has completed both their WFR and EMT certifications. 

Pharmacist

This is a profession that requires a Doctor of Pharmacy degree to practice, and approval for a practicing license.  This entire process can take anywhere from 4 to 8 years of college to attain.  It is, therefore, a trusted qualification at camp, especially considering the large volume of prescription doses.  I have worked with several pharmacists at camp over the years.  I have always found them to be friendly, reliable, and incredibly impressive in their knowledge.  I’ve never seen them get stumped by a prescription! 

Camp Nurse 

This is a profession that requires a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and an active RN license.  It typically takes around 4 years to become a licensed nurse.  This is the most common medical qualification found at camp.  Their well-rounded skill sets, and focus on a friendly bedside manner, make them uniquely suited for this type of role with kids.   

Doctor / MD 

This is the best qualification, but also a rare one to see.  Though they can be common at some camp types, such as diabetes or other medically focused outdoor camps.  They also have to be confirmed sometimes months in advance.  And may require special permissions and work insurance from their employers.

Where Is The Camp Medical Technician Located At Camp?

They will be centrally located in the camp medical building or area.  The building or area will always be separated to ensure privacy for the campers.  It is intended as a place where the camper can be provided with the opportunity to rest for a couple of hours to attempt to keep them at camp.  No camp ever wants to send kids away early from an awesome outdoor adventure.

Little campers hiking on muddy path at kids summer camps

What Can You Do To Support Your Camp Medical Technician?

Thoroughly Complete The Camp Medical Questionnaire.

The Camp Medical Questionnaire will be a part of every camps registration packet and will ask you to go into specific detail on any serious medical or allergy considerations.  Please be very specific, especially in regards to over-the-counter meds.  The Camp Medical Technician would like the full resource of options to treat your kid.  Any over-the-counter med that is not specifically indicated as permissible by the parent might not be able to be given by them.  

If any serious reactions can occur with certain prescribed or over-the-counter meds, you MUST indicate this within the questionnaire.  And if your child has any history and frequency of seizures or heart issues, it is very important that you indicate this on paper and verbally to the Medical Technician on check-in day.  This could affect the level and type of activities that your kid can safely participate in.

It will also ask you to list out all pertinent health insurance information.  This is another extremely important area to double and triple check after filling out.  It can put camp staff in tough, awkward positions at urgent care centers and hospitals who might be demanding this information before admitting your kid for any kind of treatment.  And always read the fine print on the camps medical policy as it applies to your health insurance in the event of an emergency!

Start and Complete Your Kids Packing List for Camp With Plenty of Time to Spare! 

This will help to ensure that your camper is going to be comfortable and warm at Camp, lessening the possibility of a visit to the health center. 

The packing list for Camp can be a daunting challenge for any parent, especially the first time.  It is crucially important to prepare well as many issues at camp can result from the campers either not having what they need or not having enough of it. 

An unforgettable camp adventure first comes down to the right preparation.  We have two recent posts that guide you through the essential tips and insights for ALL of your kids packing and dressing concerns, The Essential Packing List for Camp and How to Dress for Kids Summer Camps   

Counselor and Camper Walking Together at Summer Camp

When Are You Informed Of Emergencies At Camp?

As soon as possible is the short answer.  But keep in mind that at times, an emergency can require such a quick response that the parents will likely be informed after the first calls and decisions have been made.  The safety and well-being of the campers is first and foremost.  And the camp directors won’t admit it to parents, but the well-being and potential legal exposure of the camp is a close second.  At the first appropriate and reasonable opportunity, parents should always be contacted.

Who Is The Camps Local Urgent Care Clinic Or Hospital?

Every camp should have a standing relationship with a local urgent care clinic or hospital.  Ask the camp or session director as they should have experienced situations that required their services probably many times.  If a solid answer is not given, then this should raise red flags.

This could indicate that the camp places its own protection from legal exposure as more of a priority than the well-being of the campers.  It could also indicate a weak Camp EAP (Emergency Action Plan) or inadequate preparation for the camp session.  It could even expose an ineffective insurance provider for the camp.  Every developed and properly insured camp will maintain its own version of a Camp EAP.  

This is the Camps Emergency Action Plan.  It will outline, in detail, every aspect of their management and medical response to any possible incident that could be anticipated at camp.  Everything medical-related should be clearly addressed in the Camp EAP.  This is a requirement for the camps insurance and legal coverage.

How Is The Kids Safety Guaranteed At Night?

This is the most sensitive time of the day for any Camp and a constant challenge for the counselors.  If camp directors are being honest, they will admit to a little bit of anxiety about the possible “what ifs” surrounding the campers at night. 

This is an important area of kids camps for parents to understand, especially if its their first time away from home or their first outdoor adventure.  Camp should always be a comfortable and safe place for campers to call home.  

I have a whole bunch of helpful insights to share with you on this topic.  Crafted from countless nights of cabin patrols and bedtimes stories.  Check out our recent post for all of the essential answers, How Do Kids Summer Camps Manage the Kids at Night.

That’s A Wrap!

Hopefully, this post on the Ultimate Camp Meds Guide is helpful, insightful, and enjoyable for you.  I feel it very important to share these insights with you as the kids will be engaging in some thrilling activities.  

Every camp parent deserves to know the nuts and bolts of how camps manage their medical concerns.  It is key to ensuring the best outdoor adventure for your kid.  This post is a part of our KCE Camp Tidbit – Your Kids Camp Medical Breakdown.  Have a great time preparing your young camper for their unforgettable outdoor adventure!

“My backpack could rival Mary Poppins’s magic carpet bag.” 

– Former Counselor & Medical Technician

For more of the best kids camp tips and insight, subscribe to our free and exclusive KCE Camp Tidbits emails.  Confidence building is a major part of any awesome outdoor adventure.  Being properly equipped is key.  Nothing saps your confidence like being unprepared.  Never let it happen to your kids!  Check out our essential Kids Camping Bundles.

Want to Share Your Experience or Ask a Question About Camp Meds or Anything Medical-Related at Camp?  Leave A Comment Below!

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