Islander Nursing Students Bring Summer of Fun to Patients with Special Needs through CAMP Program

CONHS students Lent Helping Hand at Special Needs Summer Camp

Islander nursing students, many of who were just weeks away from their August 2021 graduation, had the opportunity to put their caregiving skills to the test during a summer volunteer program for patients with special needs.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Making an Islander Impact in the lives of individuals with special needs and their families, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s final semester nursing majors lent a healing hand this summer at the Children’s Association for Maximum Potential (CAMP) Camp, located northwest of San Antonio in Center Point, Texas.

Founded in 1979 by US Air Force pediatricians Drs. Chris Plauche Johnson, Fred McCurdy, and Robert de Lemos, CAMP is a recreational program for children and adults with medical, developmental, intellectual, and physical disabilities. CAMP serves more than 1,000 patients every year.

College of Nursing and Health Sciences Clinical Assistant Professor Johanna Dee Evans, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, says the opportunity to help couldn’t have come at a better time based on a significant shortage of health care volunteers due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

“We could not have safely cared for all of the campers without the help of the nursing students this summer,” said Evans about students in her Nursing Care of Community Health Clients course.

CAMP welcomed Islander nursing students for a weeklong stay in June and July to assist campers with their medical needs, including medication administration, tube feedings, water boluses, colostomy bag changes, and more.

“I feel more confident in so many of my skills,” Amy Koyle ’21 said. “I have been able to practice my therapeutic communication and have gained so much more from this experience. I joke that I am now the queen of tube feeds and colostomy bag changes. I am also better at spotting a seizure before it happens.”    

CAMP gave Islander students, many who were just weeks away from their August 2021 graduation, the opportunity to put their caregiving skills to the test. Duties beyond medical care included joining in on activities with campers, such as swimming, canoeing, and horseback riding.

“This was truly our first experience to feel like real nurses,” Shane Fulp ’21 said. “The amount of growth I was able to gain from this experience was amazing. I can’t wait to come back as a fully licensed nurse and volunteer again.”

Inspired by the medical needs of her quadruplet sister, Islander Hannah Grundy ’21 says she was excited for the opportunity to see people grow and improve, no matter what their life circumstances are. Grundy, whose sister has cerebral palsy, Type 1 Diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, and is fed by a G-tube, is wheelchair-bound and dependent on caretakers.

“Being around the special needs community growing up made me feel confident at CAMP,” said Grundy. “Even so, I needed the reminders to talk to the older campers as adults, so that was humbling. They understand everything, they just can’t express it as easily as we do. We need to connect with our patients because it instills trust in them.”

Grundy says one of her most memorable moments came during a special encounter with a non-verbal camper who was in pain but couldn’t explain what was hurting him.

“He had sores on the back of his Achilles tendon from wet swim shoes,” Grundy said. “I assessed his feet for any more sores and noticed his toenails were extremely long and curved under his toes.”

Grundy said she was able to work together with other volunteers to carefully bandaged his sores and cut his toenails. She said the look of gratitude on the camper’s face made the experience one she won’t soon forget.

The Islander students who volunteered at CAMP this summer all agree on one thing – while their stay was only a week, the lessons they learned will last a lifetime.

“There is a true importance in being kind and genuine to others,” Fulp said. “Working with these campers changes your mindset about life and in some ways, even results in some personal healing. I know now to enjoy the little things because that is what makes all the difference.”