Life as a Camp Dietitian {and how it changed my career path}

Life as a camp dietitian

Life as a Camp Dietitian {and how it changed my career path}

Did you go to summer camp?  I always enjoyed it.  Little did I know that I would continue going to camp as an adult!  Today I will be sharing my experience at Camp Huronda (a summer camp for children and youth living with type 1 diabetes).  I’ve attended this camp  for the past six summers where I trade my business attire for a camp T-shirt and shorts.  This experience has developed new skills, provided a new outlook on life and even altered my career path!


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What brought me to camp?

Years ago, my friend Jessica Walters presented to our Masters of Applied Nutrition class about going to Camp Huronda.  Her face lit up when she said, “I learned so much about type 1 diabetes and I am definitely returning next year!” I didn’t miss a word of her presentation and it got me thinking about doing the same thing.

The following winter, during my first year of practice, the Canadian Diabetes Association opened applications for Camp Huronda medical staff.  I hesitated to apply since I had minimal type 1 diabetes experience.  Thankfully, my mom encouraged me.  “If you don’t feel that you have experience,” she said, “then that’s the very reason to apply!” Later that day I submitted my application and I’m so thankful that I did!

Let me take you on a tour of the camp and provide some insight into what happens there.


A typical day as “camp dietitian”

Rise and shine to the fresh Lake Waseosa air and the dewy grass.  I leave our staff cabin and walk over to the dining hall to help with the breakfast setup.  Since campers are taking insulin to cover the amount of carbs they eat, it is important that the camp dietitians embrace the role of being the official “carb counters.”  To do this job, we have access to a food scale, measuring cups, food labels, recipes and the Internet for nutrition facts.  We review the menu with the chef and speak with kitchen staff to ensure

portions are just right.  The daily menu is posted with carb counts.  There are several campers with food allergies so we need to plan substitutions for meals and over-night trips.  As camp dietitians, we must be visible to campers, counsellors, and medical staff to answer nutrition questions!



Our medical team

The Canadian Diabetes Association has numerous diabetes camps with an extensive medical team.  Some of our team members this year included Zubin and Ireney, our endocrinologists, Ken, one of the nursing leads, Gill, another dietitian, and Austina our dietetic intern.  We also had a medical resident, a fellow, eight nurses, and six nursing aides.  Nursing staff and an on-call doctor were available 24 hours a day to respond to medical issues.  This year, we had approximately 75 campers between the ages of eight and sixteen.  It was a lot of campers to look after, but we did it.

camp huronda

New connections lead to new opportunities

When you go outside your comfort zone, you never know whom you will meet!  During my first year at camp, I happened to meet my now friend and business mentor Dr. Michael Sorg, an allergist in Waterloo.  He said the same thing to me for three summers: “Andrea, you should start your own business.”  Mike’s yearly persistence and his confidence in me were instrumental in me starting my business, Dietetic Directions.


Most valuable lessons

Camp Huronda brings people together and reminds us that we are all more similar than we are different.  Each year, open communication between our team has helped me to learn new things about type 1 diabetes.  Thanks to the campers, and the counsellors, I have a deeper understanding of what it is like to live with diabetes. I have worn a pump (filled with saline), checked my blood sugars regularly, and counted my carbs before each meal.  It’s not easy!  Camp reminds me of the importance of teamwork and camaraderie.

One of my favourite quotes from a ten-year-old camper: “I love coming to camp because it’s the one place I really feel like I truly belong.”  This sentiment is spread throughout the camp.


Final thoughts

It is important to seek “out of office” opportunities to build your skills and enhance your everyday practice. Camp Huronda is a safe learning space, with incredible people, and provides the chance to have a lot of fun!

Take the plunge and try something new!  After all, you never know what valuable lessons you’ll learn or what new connections you’ll make!


Original story published on the Dietitians of Canada Practice Blog, “Why it’s essential to seek “out of office” experiences.