Most day-camp staff members spend months preparing for the opening of camp just after the school year ends. Once plans for field trips, swimming schedules, and staff training are complete, one important element remains.
While basics like CPR and first aid are generally covered, some items may go unnoticed, especially the importance of training staff members in medication administration. Many campers have physical or medical problems that need treatment during camp hours, but because of liability, staff members cannot administer medications so it falls on campers to dole out their own medications. This practice is dangerous and more threatening than taking the time to train two or more full-time staff members in medication administration.
Over the years, more children are requiring medication; for example, campers with severe allergies have epinephrine pens (Epi pens) to counter the effects of anaphylaxis. If a camper becomes unresponsive because of a swollen throat or an inability to breathe, a responsible adult is needed to administer the medication; however, most employees who have not been trained are lost, panicked, or legally unable to treat a camper. The potential consequences of not treating are much higher than treating a camper.
A medication-administration class—at a local college or hospital—typically costs $25 to $30 per person. The training highlights the importance of checking a label more than once, checking the dosage, maintaining a medication-administration record, storing medication, and using an Epi pen.
Medicine should not be stored in a drawer at the front desk of a facility. Such a location allows anyone access to the medications, some of which are controlled substances and harmful to non-prescribed campers. The dangers should be obvious, but camp leaders and counselors often overlook them. The proper way to store medication is to keep it in a secure location, such as a locked room with limited access. For medications that necessitate refrigeration, such as insulin, either a private refrigerator within the locked location or a locked box in the main refrigerator is required.
It is almost a given that a camp also will have one or more campers with asthma. Each camper should have an inhaler, and it should be in the possession of a nearby counselor at all times. If a camper has severe allergies related to bees, a staff member should have an Epi pen. While it may be a burden to carry such medical supplies, it is necessary.
A second training procedure often overlooked is dealing with blood-borne pathogens. Sometimes this training is included in first aid, but its importance is rarely expressed. Blood-borne pathogens can be transmitted if the proper protective equipment is not utilized. Training attendees are taught to treat every person as though that person has a disease that can be contracted by coming into contact with blood or other bodily fluids. For this reason, hypo-allergenic gloves should be in all first-aid kits throughout the camp or facility. Each staff member should also learn about the various types of hepatitis, how each is contracted, and how to respond to first-aid issues.
While such training may stretch the budget, the knowledge gained could save a life, or keep children from overdosing on their own medication. Safety should be at the forefront when dealing with large groups of children. A local hospital or college can be contacted for more information about the training offered.
Laura L. Porter is a graduate student at North Carolina State University. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael J. Bradley, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Recreation and Park Administration at Eastern Kentucky University. He may be reached at email@example.com.