Medical Matters

Most parents, when they leave their children at a camp facility, have certain expectations that often go unsaid. Will my child be properly supervised? Will he or she be protected from bullying? Will my camper be safe from outside forces or people that may harm him? If he or she is hurt, will proper care be available? In many states, when parents turn over their child to a camp and its staff, they are giving the camp the responsibility of in loco parentis. The term–Latin for “in the place of a parent”–refers to the legal responsibility of a person or organization to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent.

This is extremely important when the camp accepts the responsibility of caring for the child’s medical needs. Some of the questions that need to be addressed are:

· How can we anticipate a camper’s needs?

· What needs have we been made aware of prior to the camp session?

· What have we found out on opening day that has changed since the parents first completed the health form?

· If we have learned of food allergies, how do we communicate those concerns to the food service department?

When we accept responsibility, the list can become long.

Another question to ask is, Do we have the proper procedures in place, not only to protect each child who enters our gates, but to protect the camp as well? Let’s look at important issues that we must address as we seek to accomplish both of these goals

Doctor’s Standing Orders

This is perhaps one of the most difficult issues to address, but no doubt one of the most important. In order to protect the medical personnel at camp, it is necessary to have “standing orders” from a local physician. It is critical that a doctor be willing to oversee your operations by writing these orders, and be available for consultation as the camp doctor. With standing orders in place, the staff medical personnel (whether volunteers or paid staff) have the true authority–issued by a physician–to treat common ailments the camper might present at the first-aid station. They also have the authority to use certain over-the-counter medicines, such as Tylenol and cold medicines, because the standing orders have specified what first-aid supplies are allowed and needed.

It is not unusual for a first-aid station to have a bottle of peroxide for use in cleaning wounds, such as cuts and scrapes. However, with a doctor’s oversight, you learn, for example, that peroxide, while cleaning a wound, actually can damage the healthy tissue around the wound. Simple saline solutions can be used in its place. The same is true for many other over-the-counter medications, which were replaced by bacitracin. Your first-aid station doesn’t have to be stocked with a multitude of products, only those ordered by the doctor. In most cases, the number of items can be reduced to a small group, maintaining a quantity of each type.


There are two routes to take when staffing a first-aid station. The first is to hire a nurse for the camping season. This is best if possible. Obstacles to this approach include not only the financial burden but also the possibility of multiple sites; it may not be possible to staff all those sites with paid personnel. States may vary as to nurse qualifications, but in most cases RNs, LPNs, paramedics, first responders, first-aid certified personnel and doctors all qualify. The second approach is to staff a first-aid station with volunteers. This is feasible, but exercise great care making your selections, especially if those volunteers are at your facility for a week or more.

Health Forms

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