Last day of camp dangers
Whether your camp’s sessions are one week or four weeks long, the last day of camp holds a unique danger: sending a camper home sick or hurt. Let’s say the campers are playing a game of capture the flag on the last morning and one of them falls and hurts his arm. There is no deformity and only a little swelling. During the rest of the week, the camp health staff would ice it for a while and monitor the injury. On the last day, it’s iced but the child is then placed on a bus or van for a two-hour trip home. The child gets off the bus with a swollen (possibly broken) arm, in tears, to parents whose impression is that the camp is not taking adequate care of their child. The first word the camp director receives on this incident is when lawsuit papers land on his desk. In the infamous words from the movie Cool Hand Luke, “what we have here is a failure to communicate”.
In general, any injuries or illnesses that campers may be taking home should be communicated to parents before the child leaves camp. Discussion should focus on the child’s current condition and include suggestions for follow-up care. Parents should also be offered the opportunity to have their child seen by a doctor before the child leaves camp. This delay may inconvenience some, but the camp continues to communicate the message “we care” to both campers and parents. Staff traveling with the camper also must have the judgment and authority to seek immediate medical care. It’s also a good idea for the camp director or health staff to follow up with the parents a few hours, and again a few days, later to see how the child is responding. If the injury turns out to be significantly worse than first thought, this early notice can provide the director with time to investigate the circumstances around the injury while staff are still present.
It’s a good practice for camp directors to evaluate and tailor the last day of camp to reduce higher risk activities. Conduct those higher risk activities when your medical staff will have the time and resources to care for the campers in a controlled setting. Carefully evaluate how your camp deals with the last day and medical issues that may arise. We all want camp to end on a positive experience.