Bemidji State Launches Unique Graduate Program in Camp Nursing

Nurses with an affinity for the outdoors can pursue one of the nation’s only graduate certificate programs in camp nursing at Bemidji State University.

BSU’s certificate in camp nursing, offered entirely online, prepares registered nurses for camp nursing practice, which offers a blend of clinical, community health and emergency response skills.

The post-baccalaureate program was developed by the Bemidji School of Nursing in collaboration with the Association of Camp Nurses and with the support and input of camp professionals from across the country. The program emphasizes prevention and treatment of common camp injuries and illnesses, controlling communicable diseases and the use of surveillance as a risk-reduction strategy. It also will help nurses develop skills associated with program planning, cultural competency and leadership.

BSU’s program will be coordinated by Linda Ebner Erceg, a registered nurse and certified public health nurse with decades of experience in camp environments.

“Of the crisis situations that happened at camps in the summer of 2013, 38 percent were health care-related,” Erceg said. “In many of those situations, nurses need to know more about camps and more about kids, and how to marry those two in nursing practice.”

Erceg says the certificate program will fill a growing need in the booming camp market. Each year, more than 11 million American kids fill more than 12,000 resident and day camps. Camps employ more than 1.5 million people in a variety of positions, and camp staff are increasingly being recruited from other nations.

“There’s a definite need for this kind of education,” Erceg said. “No one offers anything of this scope for camp nursing. Nurses could get basic instruction at workshops, but until now didn’t have access to focused study in camp nursing. Considering there are only three or five Introduction to Camp Nursing workshops each year to serve all of the U.S. and Canada, it’s time to address the need for adequately prepared nurses in our camps.”

Erceg says BSU’s program will emphasize foundational skills needed in camp nursing to be successful in conditions that are quite unlike those found in other nursing settings. As part of their academic work, students will apply their skills at a camp in their geographic region.

“This program isn’t about just getting a job,” said Dr. Jeanine Gangeness, founding dean of the Bemidji School of Nursing. “This is about being able to choose the lifestyle you want as a nurse. If you’re an individual who wants to work with kids and has a desire to be in a natural environment and a healthy work environment, then this should be something you explore.”

Courses in BSU’s program, which already has received endorsements from the American Camp Association and the Association of Camp Nurses, began this month. Enrollment information is available through BSU’s Center for Extended Learning.

About Linda Erceg
Linda Ebner Erceg has worked as a camp professional for nearly 50 years. With education in nursing, psychology, physical education and health education, Erceg coordinates BSU’s certificate of camp nursing and teaches some courses in the program. She co-authored “The Basics of Camp Nursing”, has done Healthy Camps research in collaboration with the Association of Camp Nurses and the American Camp Association, has given several publications and presentations, and served as the associate director of health and risk management for Bemidji’s Concordia Language Villages for more than 30 years. Erceg was instrumental in the foundation of the Association of Camp Nurses, which professionalizes the practice of camp nursing. She was the association’s executive director from 1990-2014.

Linda Ebner Erceg, camp nursing certificate program director
Dr. Jeanine Gangeness, founding dean, Bemidji School of Nursing

Bemidji State University, located in northern Minnesota’s lake district, occupies a wooded campus along the shore of Lake Bemidji. Enrolling nearly 5,000 students, Bemidji State offers more than 50 undergraduate majors and nine graduate programs encompassing arts, sciences and select professional programs. BSU is a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and has a faculty and staff of more than 550. University signature themes include environmental stewardship, civic engagement and global and multi-cultural understanding.