My D-Camp Nutrition Staff Experience
A whirlwind of 13 days at Camp Huronda was jam-packed with experiences from dawn to way beyond dusk (oh, those starry nights!). My promise of blogging weekly was dreaming big as we set to re-open a camp that had been hibernating for several years due to the pandemic. I completed a Camp Journal and posted it on my Instagram stories each night (and is posted in the album at the bottom of this post) with the intention of summarizing my time at D-Camp with this blog post.
Training with the nursing staff began at 10:30am on Saturday morning after the 10am move-in. This included a staff lunch in between as well as free time after dinner. Things covered were:
Tour of Camp Grounds
Roles & Responsibilities - Dietetic Coordinator & Nursing Coordinator + Camp Director
Diabetes - Lesson on pathology and management
Insulin Pump Training by several company representatives (Sunday morning 9-11am)
Carbohydrate Counting (online training prior to the first day)
After that, it was hands-on learning for this unique role.
Sunday was super busy with welcoming children and their families starting at 12pm until dinner time. Campers were introduced to their Camp Counselor/Cabin and then brought through the medical stations with their parent/caregiver (if not arriving on the bus from Toronto/Ottawa):
Nursing/CDE: Insulin Pump settings (recorded so they can be returned to Home settings - things have to be changed due to activity and lifestyle changes while away), CGM, health card/insurance check
Dietitian: Confirming food allergies and restrictions
Nursing: Drop off campers' personal diabetes management supplies (to be kept at the Insulinn).
Doctors: Meet with doctor (endocrinologist/pediatrician) to review medical intake sheet and consultation to discuss current management and any concerns before camp begins.
Camp then officially was in session with our first dinner together and lasted until the second Friday around the same time (13 whole days of camp!).
Daily Nutrition Team Tasks
7 am - Breakfast Board - Verify and write menu for campers to plan, doctors (Carb Counting is important for those living with T1D)
7:20-7:40 am - Breakfast - Eat with medical staff
7:40 am - Host Menu Board and support campers with food choices before seeing the doctors
8:30 am - Nutrition Team morning meeting + Camp Program Meeting
9 am - Medical Team Meeting
9:30 am - Snack Rotation (new this year) - Cabins rotate through this activity (once every Session) and learn how to make a healthy recipe - Frozen Fruit Yogurt "Pancakes" or Dippin' Dots
10 am - Meeting with Camp Chef
10:30am - Snack Rotation
11:15am - Menu Carb Calculations for next day (or Free Time in Session B, C, D)
12 pm - Host Lunch Menu Board
12:30pm - Lunch - All D-Campers/Staff bolus outside with medical supervision before heading in to eat all together
1 pm-3 pm Menu Carb Calculations (or Free Time in Session B, C, D)
3 pm-3:30 pm - Host Snack Board
3:30pm - 5pm Menu Carb Calculations & Trip Menu Planning + Free Time
5 pm - Host Dinner Menu Board
5:45pm - Dinner - Same as lunch
6:30-8 pm - Free Time
8 - 10pm - Host Bedtime Snack Board (different bedtimes/snack times based on age of cabin/campers)
10:30 pm - SLEEP / Rest up for the next day!
Insulin Carb Ratio
Insulin Management - Pumps, CGMs, Bolusing, Injection, Protocols for Highs & Lows
Medical interdisciplinary team communication
Nutrition Counseling for Type 1 Diabetes
Collaboration and coordination with Food Service Staff/Services
Food Literacy education / teaching
Networks & Friends gained - RDs, Dietetic interns (future colleagues!) Drs at Sick Kids & McMaster, Residents & Fellows (these change weekly), Nurses (pediatric, students, CDEs), Camp Counselors
Amazing location - The view of the lake and gorgeous Muskoka property is not your typical medical facility.
Having fun with kids - Singalongs and excitement; Talent Show; Polar Bear Dip; Kids say the darndest things - "It's Delicious not Disgusting!"
In addition to my original list, I feel the need to mention some other items that on reflection and experience I highly suggest:
Bug spray - July is full of mosquitoes and they are out in full force especially in the evening at dinner and bedtime snacks.
Fan - This one is compact for traveling but not the most powerful. If you have access to a car, I highly suggest getting a larger one. The Nurse's Nest has ceiling fans so this isn't as necessary.
My 3-drawer cart was an organizational gem. With the plan to stay for 4 weeks and with limited laundry facilities, my overpacking served me well! With only a small dresser (no closets) in some rooms, this added extra storage as well as a nightstand for my fan.
Pack for every kind of weather. With no AC except in the new Insulinn and Main Office, you will go from cool mornings to hot afternoons and then even damp rainy days. Daily weather ranged from 12C to 30C for Session A in July.
Mattress Pad - If in the Royal York, they have single cots (versus double mattresses in the Nurse's Nest). I ended up driving to Walma art to immediately pick up a memory foam mattress pad but should have invested in one while packing.
Mirror - The two Royal York bathrooms are shared with not only Royal York residents but many Camp Counselors and Kitchen Staff too. It's best to get ready for your day/bed in your room mostly. I purchased a cheap floor-length mirror at Walmart but a vanity mirror would have worked and traveled well too.
Power Bar - There is only one outlet per bedroom in the Royal York and Nurse's Nest. This was a lifesaver for my fan and charging my phone/electronics.
Lantern - I would have wanted to have a light beside my bed instead of a flashlight for when I had to get up in the middle of the night.
Hands-on nutrition experience - no shadowing here! You are an equal part of the team regardless of RD, Intern, or Student.
The Dietetic Intern (Ryerson) receives 7 weeks of experience for 4 weeks of work at D-Camp. It's a lot packed into a short time!
It is certainly long hours and all hands on deck are needed, at times. Teamwork and those who take initiative are valued very much in this position.
The D-Camp is supported by medical staff (not the reverse) as the main focus is as a camp. The camper experience is the most important goal of Camp Huronda, while managing T1D. It felt like we let kids be kids and have the medical team be on top of things (in the background when possible) without taking away from their fun.
I knew that diabetes was a very dynamic condition that required constant monitoring and management. Yet having a front row view to seeing 70+ children and youth with different requirements was truly humbling. The amount of care and attention shown by the doctors and camp counselors was extraordinary! So many things had to be considered such as metabolic needs, activity level (we had to pivot quickly when camp programming had to change), diet choice changes, and even stress (homesickness usually sets in on day 3 for a few).
I was blown away by all the considerations and how effortless the Sick Kid & McMaster doctors made things look. To see them participate with the kids in the 645am Polar Bear Dip (they received more points for their cabin for the doctors!) and care so deeply, I have forever been inspired to continue my passion for caring and treating the whole person.
These T1D Warriors/Campers are MY heroes. The parents have my utmost respect (they are a 24/7 medical team to their kids normally at home). I am proud to have been one piece of the D-Camp puzzle that gave this experience to truly deserving families. As for the future, I am excited to dedicate more of my professional life to dietetics, nutrition, and the challenging, yet rewarding area, of diabetes healthcare.
One Registered Dietitian truly stood out and made my educational experience so worthwhile. So I did want to write this part just for her:
Jess, you took every teachable moment to share with me and Kylie your "golden nuggets". You mentioned how there are no dietetic interns in "industry" and that truly is a shame. It is very clear how much knowledge you have to share not only with patients, clinics and medical staff, but to the dietetic profession. I am so grateful for having spent such a short but concentrated time with a passionate and down-to-earth mentor. Paths cross for a reason and I know that I'm even more inspired to be a great Registered Dietitian (and possibly CDE) because of you. With appreciation, I hope you know that you truly made a difference as a (pseudo) preceptor.
For more health and nutrition information, please see the Diabetes Canada website.
To be part of the medical staff (this year or in the following years), contact the Nursing Coordinator or Dietetic Coordinator to easily apply (students welcome!). Heres the 2023 online form to apply: https://app.smartsheet.com/b/form/e247ea6139a241eab41fec2f336dcb81
If you are a doctor, resident or fellow, contact your hospital/program supervisor (Sick Kids / McMaster) or the Camp Director. Past info about opportunities can be found here.
To learn more about the D-Camp child/youth experience, you can find more information or register a camper here: https://www.diabetes.ca/d-camps