By Amanda Berishaj, PharmD
Prepackaged Medication Helps Put Parents At Ease, Streamlines Camp Operations
It’s opening day at camp, and parents are lined up around the pavilion to drop off hundreds of bottles, packages and assorted zip-lock baggies carefully labeled with their children’s medications. One by one, the camp nurse painstakingly discusses each individual medication, noting dosage, uses and other personal data in the midst of the emotional roller coaster that is the first day of camp. After the hundreds of medications are accepted, the job of organizing it all begins – a colossal job, and one which attention to detail can be critical to a camper’s health and well-being away from home.
With more campers than ever taking multiple daily medications, along with increased liability issues and limited nursing staff, camps are finding medication management is becoming an increasingly time consuming, yet critical, task. Recently, a new packaging technology has begun to make a major impact on medication management at camp, helping to not only reduce staff time on opening day and throughout the summer, but also reducing camp liability and –importantly - promoting peace-of-mind for parents and staff.
CampRx, a division of family-owned mail order pharmacy DirectRx, offers innovative “dose strip” packaging of medication which is delivered directly to camp before opening day. Each tear-off packet contains one dose of multiple medications for a child, customized and clearly labeled with the date and time it is to be administered. The dose packages are connected in a tear- strip format and enclosed in a personal dispenser box for the child. Camp staff simply tear open the next perforated packet from the box and hand the camper his medications. Whether a camper has one important medication to take multiple times per day or many combinations of different doses, the dose strip makes it simple for camp staff to administer important doses properly.
Most camps use CampRx for two reasons: safety and ease of use. Prepackaged medication all but eliminates the risk of missed or incorrect dosing. Campers’ medications are dispensed, sealed and labeled for daily dosing right at the pharmacy, saving camps many hours of gathering and organizing campers’ medications. CampRx packaging is also waterproof and portable, making it perfect for overnight trips.
With the increase in medications being prescribed for children and adolescents, camps are increasingly devoting more time to the organization, preparation and distribution of medications each year. Oftentimes, the greatest demand on time is opening day – when staff have multiple responsibilities and limited time to spend noting the crucial details of dosing for each child.
"The prepackaged medications streamlined our opening day check-in and reduced the daily time spent on medication prep and management,” said Heather Kiley, director of Camp Merrowvista. “This freed up our health team staff to focus more time and attention on prevention and responding to the day to-day camper health needs.”
Amanda Berishaj, director of CampRx and a pharmacist with DirectRx, has seen a significant increase in the number of medications children are taking regularly. She estimates the average camper now takes three medications each day, from ADHD medications coupled with anti-depressants to vegan vitamin supplements and laxatives. In the US, there was an 83% increase in sales of Ritalin between 2006 and 2010, and the Association of Educational Psychologists said its members were reporting an increase in children with behavioral difficulties being prescribed the drug in conjunction with antidepressants. Additionally, the rise in popularity of vegan diets has in turn created more demand for vegan vitamins by adolescents.
Liability for dispensing prescription medications properly is also a growing concern for camp administrators. As a result, some states are implementing Medication Administration courses covering the basics of administering medications. “Potentially, a camp nurse may not be available to campers for: day activities on a remote area of the camp property, overnights, out of camp activities or trips, or times when the nurse is busy with a health care emergency with other campers or staff,” according to Mary Marugg, RN, in the CampLine. “In these circumstances, it is appropriate for a nurse to delegate an individual with training to administer a single dose of medication at a specific time.”
Oftentimes, trip leaders are given the responsibility of providing campers with medications needed at a certain time. Delegating the distribution of medication to non-medical personnel inherently increases the risk of error, yet for any camper on a strict drug regimen, there is little room for error. Prepackaged medication dosing, clearly imprinted with the time of day for distribution and the camper’s name on the waterproof packaging, can greatly reduce the risk factor, as well as provide peace-of-mind for trip leaders. Saving the packaging can also serve as a temporary record of distribution, providing confirmation of the medication received.
Ultimately, some parents are simply not comfortable placing their children’s health needs in the hands of others. Particularly, parents of campers with strict drug regimens may be hesitant to