In southern West Virginia, the town of Glen Jean sits near the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve. With the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop, thousands of Boy Scouts descended on the site, which hosted the 2013 National Scout Jamboree this summer.
From July 14-24, more than 40,000 Scouts and support staff had the opportunity to perform BMX bicycle riding, skateboarding, downhill mountain biking and numerous other activities.
Part of the support staff consisted of a medical services team, which was strategically positioned in various locations throughout the 50,000-acre camp. These medical professionals were available 24 hours a day for any Scout who needed care.
At the heart of the medical team was the nursing division, headed by Chief Nurse Kathy Burns, RN, MSN, ACNS-BC, CEN. Burns and her assistant chief nurse officers, known as ACNOs, oversaw the care and treatments of approximately 500-600 cases a day.
We [nurses] made a difference and will continue to do so, Burns said.
According to Burns, a clinical nurse specialist/nursing services at Medina Hospital in Cleveland, 109 nurses were part of the all-volunteer team for the event, including 18 advanced practice nurses. Six of the volunteer nurses traveled from New York and two came from New Jersey, she said.
A major challenge was the mountainous terrain that thousands of Scouts and staff had to negotiate. The Summit area included some roads with 30-degree inclines, making transportation difficult.
Nurses worked and reported to each other, along with their hospital-based counterparts. They tracked census and acuity levels during the 11-day period of the jamboree. Nurses had to help set up the medical facility, inventory supplies and be ready for any possible medical issues. Expected cases of heat exhaustion, blisters, sunburn and even orthopedic injuries were handled in an efficient and safe manner, Burns said.
The more complex cases were airlifted by civilian and military helicopters. Nurses set up self-care areas for the Scouts, and at times performed patient teaching, primarily educating Scouts about staying hydrated and watching for signs and symptoms of heat exposure.
The ACNOs served as liaisons between the medical facilities and auxiliary support services, such as safety, EMS and public health. ACNOs also transported medical supplies and medications and occasionally helped transport injured Scouts to the medical facilities, using small all-terrain vehicles called gators.
Nurses were trained in a new form of electronic documentation, which made tracking patients possible. The medical teams were supported by information technology technicians and software representatives.
Burns said the nurses quickly adapted and overcame the challenges of operating in less-than-ideal situations. A sense of humor is definitely needed in this type of setting, she said.
Between juggling schedules and treating cases of scrapes and bruises, members of the nursing team also took part in some events. Whitewater rafting and zip lines were attempted.
Nurses played a key role in caring for Scouts, families and visitors who suffered from dehydration, said Burns, who noted several visitors commented on the efficiency of the operation.
We identified several areas of improvement, Burns said. Nursing is always evaluating itself, and when it comes to the safety and welfare of our youth, we must be at the forefront.
At the end of the jamboree, which required years of planning and months of preparation, nurses packed away equipment and performed medication inventory.
We will be even more prepared for 2017, Burns said of the next national jamboree, I have an awesome staff of ACNOs, many who pledged to help out again.
Michael A. Irizarry, RN, BSN, is an LPN instructor at Jersey College School of Nursing in Ewing, N.J. He is the father of two Eagle Scouts.