Camp Doctors: Keeping Kids Healthy Away From Home


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Summer camp conjures up idyllic images of kids enjoying sun-drenched afternoons sailing by the sea or hiking through the green glade of a mountain forest. And for those magical moments of summer fun to come true for young people, camp directors and medical personnel spend hours in preparation and on the job to create a safe and healthy medical environment at camp.

In order to be accredited by the American Camping Association, camps must meet specific criteria that ensures the health and safety of the campers in their charge. Most camps have on-site nursing staff members who are trained and equipped to attend to common minor emergencies, including cuts and bruises, poison ivy, beestings and viral illnesses. Increasingly, many sleepover camps, particularly those with sessions that last two to three weeks or longer, are choosing to have at least one physician on staff during the camping season.

“I really like having the assistance of the medical staff,” says Andrew Bell, a third-generation camp director at Camp Mondamin, a boys’ camp in Zirconia that was founded by Bell’s grandfather in 1922. “Our camp physicians help us develop training for our staff and protocols to help us take the best possible care of our campers. They know their stuff, and that really helps me in my job.”

On-site Doctors and Nurses

Camp Mondamin and its sister camp, Green Cove for girls, share an on-site camp physician who generally comes to camp for one to two weeks in the summer. While camp doctors are not typically paid for their services, they are often able to bring their families to camp and enjoy all of the camp’s activities during their stay.

In addition to the camp physician at Camp Mondamin and Green Cove, two nurses are on-site at each camp for the entire summer. “The nursing staff gives us continuity, and the medical staff gives us additional skills and expertise,” Bell says.

“We’re seeing an increased number of medications prescribed for our campers,” he says. “It’s very beneficial to us to have a doctor who can oversee prescribed medications and be there on-site if prescriptions need to be renewed or new medications need to be prescribed for an infection or other illness.”

Dr. Ed Spence, a pediatric specialist and assistant chairman at Levine Children’s Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, has worked as a camp doctor at Camp Seafarer, a girls’ camp in Arapahoe, for 13 years.

“Camp doctors actually do a lot off-season,” Spence says. “Some physicians who have been on staff for years work to set up protocols ahead of time for common illnesses and possible injuries so that the emergency procedures are in place before camp begins. We establish guidelines for what the nurses are to do, what physicians do and what procedures are to be followed in case of an emergency.”

Spence says there are so many different activities at Camp Seafarer, from swimming, sailing and motor-boating to horseback riding, they must “anticipate every possible situation so that we are prepared if something happens.”

Camp Seafarer and its brother camp, Camp Sea Gull for boys, each accommodate two or more physicians on-site who stay in cabins for one to two weeks all summer long. Both camps also employ several nurses who live at camp and work in the infirmary during the summer sessions.

Creating a Safer and Healthier Environment

Spence says camp doctors can also be instrumental in working with camp directors and year-round staff on broader issues that create a safer and healthier environment for campers.

“We push for healthier foods and help establish guidelines for counselors so they make sure their campers are drinking enough water, putting on adequate sunscreen and promoting safety in equipment and in activities,” he says.

Spence believes that having an on-site physician at a camp is especially beneficial if a child becomes seriously ill or injured while at camp. “We work very closely with nursing staff, but nurses don’t have the ability to provide certain medical services, so if physicians are at camp, they may be able to diagnose and treat a child, saving the parents the possible expense of a trip to the nearest emergency room.”

He also notes that in camps with longer sessions, gastrointestinal illnesses often occur and sweep through the camp’s population. “A camp physician can help ensure proper procedures are in place to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, and that makes camp a healthier place for everyone,” he says.

Creating a safe and healthy environment at summer camp is an ongoing process that needs constant review and occasional tweaking, Bell says. “Our health and safety measures are always being improved,” he says.

As a camp doctor, Ed Spence concurs with the need for continuing evaluation of health and safety standards. “Every year, our protocols are a little tighter and a little more robust,” he says. “As camp physicians, we are always trying to do a better job taking good care of the campers.”

For more information on health and wellness standards for accredited camps, go to acacamps.org.

Katherine Kopp is a freelance writer and the mother of three daughters. Her husband, Vince, spent several summers working as a camp doctor and thoroughly enjoyed taking care of the kids and fishing in his free time.

For arts resources, browse our Camps Directories and Enrichment Directory, and check your city’s parks and recreational classes for youth. Read our feature, Kids Camp in Carolinas and Virginia Offer Unique Overnight Experiences.

 

 

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October 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
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5900 Whittier Drive
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: FIT4MOM
Telephone: 919-348-0472
Contact Name: Missy Currin
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N.C. State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
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Cost: $30-$75. Free for ages 5 and younger.

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The Angus Barn
9401 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Cedar Creek Gallery
1150 Fleming Rd.
Creedmoor, NC  27522
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Cost: Free

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Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Cost: Free

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Fidelity Bank Parking Lot
100 W. Chatham St.
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Contact Name: Leslie & Jessica
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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Wilkerson staff
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Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC  27539
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Cost: $15-$75

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Weaver Street Market Carrboro
101 E Weaver St
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Sponsor: TABLE
Telephone: (919) 636-4860
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Providence Baptist Church
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Cost: See website for fees

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N.C. State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Cost: $10/adult, $5/youth, one free youth per adult ticket

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Providence Baptist Church
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Cost: See website for fees

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N.C. State Fairgrounds
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Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
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11 W. Jones St.
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Cost: See website for fees

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Cost: $10/adult, $5/youth, one free youth per adult ticket

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Providence Baptist Church
6339 Glenwood Avenue
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Cost: See website for fees

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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Caktus Group
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Ste 2
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306 Parham St
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Sponsor: Raleigh Night Market
Contact Name: Sara Buxton
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Cost: $10/adult, $5/youth, one free youth per adult ticket

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Providence Baptist Church
6339 Glenwood Avenue
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
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Cost: $10/person

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: $18

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Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Cost: $18

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Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

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Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: $5-$20

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Koka Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC  27511
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Cost: $21/parent and child pair; $11 additional child

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Middle Creek Community Center
123 Middle Creek Park Ave.
Apex, NC  27539
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Cost: Free

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TheeDesign
7901 Strickland Dr.
Suite 112
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: TheeDesign
Telephone: 919-341-8901
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Cost: $1/Person

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Telephone: 919-662-2850

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Cost: $10/adult, $5/youth, one free youth per adult ticket

Where:
Providence Baptist Church
6339 Glenwood Avenue
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Website »

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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Take part in a walk to benefit the Triangle Festival of Hope. Proceeds benefit and support caregivers and families living with dementia in North Carolina. The event features live music, kids'...

Cost: Free

Where:
Knightdale Station Park
810 N. First Ave.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Sponsor: Dementia Alliance of North Carolina
Telephone: 919-832-3732
Contact Name: Kacy Hall
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More information

Enjoy a craft fair presented by the Junior League of Raleigh. See website for hours and to purchase advance tickets.  

Cost: $10/person

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


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Cost: Free

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The Aspen School for Exceptional Children
1050 A NW Maynard Road
Cary, NC  27513
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More information

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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Step back in time with 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Preregistration encouraged. Purchase tickets at the mill. 

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60 & over), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Children ages 6 & un

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free

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Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: $5/person. Free for ages 2 and younger

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Historic Stagville
5828 Old Oxford Hwy.
Durham, NC  27712
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Koka Booth Amphitheatre
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Cost: $10 for adults; $5 for children under 12

Where:
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5908 US-70 BUS
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Sponsor: Triangle Beagle Rescue of NC
Telephone: 919 760 0025
Contact Name: Leann
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Cost: Free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: $9/member, $12/nonmember. Free for accompanying adult.

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100 Old Mason Farm Rd.
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Sponsor: North Carolina Botanical Garden
Telephone: 919-537-3770
Contact Name: Elisha Taylor
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Cost: Adults (18+) $10; Youth (7-17) $4; Children (6 & under) Free.

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Cost: Free

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Telephone: 191-946-03355
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Cost: $100 per person

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Cost: $3

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Cost: Free

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