Summertime is fantastic due to warmer weather, beach trips, vacation, farmer’s markets, etc. Another great thing about summertime is diabetes camp. Healthcare professionals may be involved with a weeklong diabetes camp in their city, county, or state. Diabetes camps are a great opportunity to step away from the “daily grind” and interact with children and adolescents as a healthcare professional, certified diabetes educator, teacher, and mentor.
A healthcare professional from a particular institution usually organizes diabetes camps. For example, a pharmacist, dietitian, or nurse may organize one through a hospital or outpatient clinic with collaboration from a local YMCA as a specific location to host the weekly program and activities. The camps are typically held during the week from Monday through Friday. The typical hours would be 8 or 9 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m., depending on general program and planned activities for each day.
Camps may vary in size depending on the number of healthcare professional volunteers, but students can be recruited to assist and gain hands-on experience with a special patient population.
A majority of the children may be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes managed with insulin pumps, but there might also be children and adolescents with type 2 diabetes. In my previous experience in a diabetes camp, several children and young adults managed their diabetes with self-administered insulin therapy from pens and/or oral medications, and only a handful of children who managed with insulin pumps.
While there will be planned activities for the campers, it is important to have a protocol on how to manage specific situations, but also to have a daily schedule for activities, glucose checks, snack times, and lunchtime. Certain items in a timeline will include checking blood glucose levels at certain times of the day, conducting a ketone check (if needed), administering insulin therapy, and supervising camper during hypo- or hyperglycemic episodes. However, these tasks are not an exclusive list of the activities and responsibilities of healthcare professionals at camp.
Read some comments from pharmacy students who volunteered at a weeklong diabetes camp in upstate South Carolina, which had patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes:
I feel like this camp is a valuable lesson for students because you get to interact with the children and check blood sugars and adjust insulin doses. You also get to personally see how blood sugars are affected by exercise and meals.
I really enjoyed being a part of the camp and meeting the children involved. I think the whole experience was eye opening and allowed us to see a side that we do not get to experience in the classroom or even at some practice sites.
I liked our educational sessions when we demonstrated proper insulin injection technique and the importance of alternating sites. I most enjoyed checking blood sugars and interacting with the kids. They are very smart when it comes to diabetes, which is extremely impressive.
I believe it was a valuable experience for a student, as we are exposed to pumps and carbohydrate counting with ratios and correction factors.
Working with these kids served as a great diabetes review. We learned mostly about type 2 diabetes so it was beneficial to work with and review type 1 diabetes, along with management of ketones and carbohydrate counting. This experience also served as a great opportunity for patient interaction.
Based on these comments, a diabetes camp is beneficial experience and great opportunity to seize for any future healthcare professional in order to gain experience on individualized diabetes management. This experience can be rewarding and gratifying for healthcare professionals, and inviting students allows opportunities to build confidence, refine skills, and improve knowledge with diabetes management. As a final note, diabetes camps definitely promote the AADE7 Self-Care Behaviors™ for diabetes management among the pediatric population.
About the Author
Jennifer Clements received her Doctorate of Pharmacy from Campbell University in 2006 and completed a primary care residency at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 2007. She is also a certified diabetes educator and board certified in pharmacotherapy. Currently, she is the Interim Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice at Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy.