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An intern learns about type 1 diabetes – bootcamp style [Camp Huronda part 2]

A soon to be RD shares her unforgettable experience interning at a camp for children with type 1 diabetes.


AM-Headshot.jpgAustina Mui is a graduate student in the Master of Health Science program (Nutrition Communication) at Ryerson University. She values helping others achieve healthier lifestyles through her professional and volunteering experiences. Austina also has a passion for working with children and adolescents. After completing an internship placement at Camp Huronda this past summer, Austina plans to pursue a career in chronic disease management and health promotion with the pediatric population. You can connect with her through LinkedIn or at austina.mui@ryerson.ca.

  

I never would have imagined an internship placement in Huntsville, Ontario – sleeping in a cabin, overlooking Lake Waseosa, being surrounded by nature’s best, spending time with young campers, and exploring the great outdoors. But, here I was doing just that at Camp Huronda!
 
As I arrived on the campgrounds and stepped out of my car, I was surrounded by wilderness. I could see Lake Waseosa in the distance, hear animals calling from afar, and smell the freshness of the air around me. Everything seemed so foreign, but I was ready to embark on this new learning adventure.

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Going into this placement, I did not know what to expect. How could a dietitian fit into this picture? What would an intern, like me, be doing? At that moment, the only thing that stood out in my mind was carbohydrate counting. However, I soon realized that there was much more to it. 
 
Camp Huronda (as you know from part 1 of this series) is one of many camps operated by the Canadian Diabetes Association for young children and teenagers living with type 1 diabetes.
 
When a child is first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, there are many new skills that need to be developed and some lifestyle adjustments to be made, by both the child and his or her family. Learning how to measure blood glucose levels, count carbs, adjust basal and bolus insulin, and (in some cases) inject insulin is tough work!
 
At Camp Huronda, many children with type 1 diabetes realize that they are not alone. With counsellors and health care professionals who provide a supportive and nurturing environment, and understand the medical implications of this health condition, campers feel accepted and comfortable enough to run, play, and be kids in the great outdoors.

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Children learn how to self-manage diabetes, and many make lasting friendships with other campers who are understanding and share similar experiences. A great emphasis is placed on helping campers promote self-esteem and personal growth through engaging in various outdoor activities, including swimming, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, wall climbing, pottery, biking, sports, and field trips.
 
Taking advantage of every learning moment
 
Every day at Camp Huronda brought new learning opportunities. I was fortunate to have amazing, and extremely knowledgeable preceptors who provided a lot of support, guidance, and teachings. Through numerous opportunities to shadow and work with the registered dietitians (RDs), registered nurses (RNs), and pediatric doctors, I learnt extensively about managing type 1 diabetes, from both a healthcare professional’s and patient’s perspective.
 
One of my most valuable learning opportunities was being able to follow a few campers as case studies for one week. I assessed numerous factors including their blood glucose levels, dietary intake, physical activity, and insulin regimens. I also had the opportunity to spend time with campers to learn from them and understand the various challenges that they go through. This allowed me to develop a better understanding about insulin adjustments and the many factors that can affect an individual’s blood sugar.
 
I was also pleasantly surprised with the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills in food service and management. I worked closely with the chef and kitchen staff, and learnt about various food service management skills related to food, inventory, and budgeting.

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Taking in a sense of reward
 
During my time at camp, the sense of community and team-building among the campers, counsellors, and medical staff was one of the most magical and memorable moments. As a team of medical staff, I believe we did a great job in promoting a safe and diabetes-friendly environment, and ensured a fun experience for the campers every day.  

It was so rewarding to see the campers grow, mature, and gradually feel more empowered to self-manage their diabetes. I witnessed many “firsts” for campers, including injecting insulin, counting carbs, and changing their insulin cartridges and sites.
 
I also saw many campers slowly become more comfortable with making insulin adjustments based on their blood glucose readings, physical activity, and food intake. It was so encouraging to see campers learning and trying to manage their diabetes at such a young age, and returning back home less reliant on their parents. This really helped me see the importance of an RD in their lives and pushed me to continue working hard to pursue my dietetic career.

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Taking a moment to reminisce
 
This internship placement really helped to reinforce my passion for working with children and adolescents. I started out at Camp Huronda with limited knowledge about the management of type 1 diabetes. However, thanks to amazing preceptors and numerous learning opportunities, I now have the knowledge and skills needed to feel confident working in this area!
 
The time I spent at Camp Huronda was truly exceptional. I will always remember the lessons learnt, cherish that sense of reward seeing the campers transform, and value all the friendships I made with my “Camp Huronda family”!
 
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Editor’s note: What a great “bootcamp” for interns learning about type 1 diabetes and children living with it. Being totally immersed in this environment is an incredible way to learn what it is really like to live with diabetes. Having a true understanding of what daily life with diabetes is like is an amazing asset to have as an RD.
 
What was your favourite placement when you were an intern? Please share your stories, thoughts, and comments below!
 

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