A number of organisations offer burns survivors a means of social, physical and emotional rehabilitation by providing BURNS CAMPS. The Australian and New Zealand Burn association believes that it is important for Burns survivors to be aware of such organisations whilst recognising that Burns Camps are not suitable or appropriate for everyone. ANZBA has drawn up a list of considerations, set out below that will help the burns survivor evaluate whether the concept of a burns camp is appropriate for them and whether an individual organisation meets their expectations.
Camps for burn survivors and their families can be a valuable resource with the potential to contribute in significant ways to individual self-esteem/body image improvement as well as family adjustment. They do this by enabling participants to meet others who share the experience of being burned or being closely connected with a burn survivor. Participants may also engage in physical activities that challenge them both physically and psychologically in a positive way. The camp environment can provide a safe and nurturing environment but it is also known that participants may be traumatised by those more severely burned / disabled than themselves. There are however certain conditions which should be met in order to ensure the physical and emotional safety of all camp participants.
Risk Management Plan
A clear Risk Management Plan with all potential risks outlined and with associated strategies for management of these (including who is responsible). Management needs to have links to a medical burns specialist who acts as consultant and is contactable for the duration of the camp.
Next of Kin
Management needs to hold contact details for the next of kin of all participants.
Comprehensive medical data should be collected for each camp participant and all support staff as well as general data (eg chronic conditions, allergies) additional burns specific data is desirable.
Circumstances of injury
Psychiatric diagnosis eg Post Traumatic Stress disorder – where appropriate information is to be provided by clinical staff with the consent of the patient.
All group leaders to carry relevant medical details at all times.
All staff both professional and volunteers should undergo a criminal record check. Camp organisers must identify that all staff and volunteers have satisfied the Federal and State legislative requirements and hold the relevant documentation.
It is important to have sufficient clinical staff trained to monitor how participants are coping as they may feel unable to verbalise their anxiety/concerns. Once a participant is identified as needing emotional support/assistance a clear protocol should be developed for managing the situation and for guiding staff. All professional staff must have completed their State’s mandatory child protection training programme eg “Identifying and Responding to Children and Young People at Risk of Harm” (NSW)
Mentors can play an important role in helping participants to settle in and identifying for management those who may need additional care/assistance and should be aware of their responsibilities regarding child protection identification and management. Clear selection criteria for the mentor role should be available and an ongoing mentor training programme should be compulsory for those who fit the criteria.
All staff both professional and volunteers should be required to sign an agreement to confidentiality statement
Activities should include those that challenge participants within the limits of their tolerance.
Management has the responsibility to ensure as far as is possible that selected activities do not have the potential to retraumatise participants or reactivate past unresolved traumas.
Participating families should be clear about their responsibilities in relation to their children and activities.
Therapeutic group sessions may or may not be conducted as part of the camp program. If available they can facilitate and enhance the mutual support/self-help experience of participants. However it is very important that such groups are run only by experienced burns professionals trained in group work who will be able to identify those participants who are experiencing difficulties. Once again clear management guidelines are necessary.
The decision of an individual burns survivor or their parent to attend a burn camp should be based on a thorough knowledge of a particular camps attributes and facilities as well as an insight into their own physical and emotional status. The considerations outlined above should assist in making this decision. It may be useful to discuss such attendance with the burns professionals involved in the individuals own rehabilitation.