While thousands of young Scouts have been ziplining, whitewater rafting and rock climbing at the 2023 Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree, members of the West Virginia University community are on hand to keep their adventure moving “Forward,” the theme of this year’s event.
Health care teams of students, residents and faculty from the WVU Health Sciences schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy and Eberly College of Arts and Sciences traveled to the Summit Bechtel Reserve for the 20th National Jamboree from July 19-28 to keep the more than 15,000 Scouts, leaders and volunteers safe and healthy during their visit to southern West Virginia.
The unique environment provides medical students with a learning experience that allows them to challenge their clinical skills in a way they might not normally get to in traditional health care settings. They also have opportunities to network with other providers and students from across the country who serve in their medical unit.
“Attending the National Jamboree and having the opportunity to connect and network with members of the health care community from across the country is an incredibly valuable opportunity for me as a student,” said Johnathan Meier, a graduate student from Hebron, Kentucky, studying clinical psychology. “Meeting professionals from various backgrounds and regions allows me to gain insights into different health care systems, approaches to patient care and clinical interviewing styles I may not have encountered otherwise, broadening my understanding of the field beyond what I can learn in a classroom setting.
“Moreover, participating in a national event like this helps me to broaden my horizons and step out of my comfort zone,” Meier added. “Engaging with people from diverse backgrounds fosters cultural awareness and understanding, which is crucial in today's interconnected world. These experiences can help me become a more well-rounded individual and health care professional.”
Each team of WVU students, residents and faculty — approximately 40 individuals in total — is assigned to one of several medical units located within base camps throughout the reserve or the central Jamboree Health Center. Each base camp unit includes a diverse group of 20-30 providers including physicians, nurses and paramedics who complete rotating shifts to keep the facilities open 24 hours per day.
The medicine and nursing teams from WVU serving in the base camp and central medical units provide assessment, treatment, observation and referral, if necessary, for a variety of illnesses and injuries ranging from dehydration and gastroenteritis to seizures and sprains. Along with the pharmacy team, they are also available to assist with a Scout or staff member’s preexisting care, such as insulin injections and other routine medication.
Individuals from the School of Nursing make up the largest cohort of medical volunteers from WVU with 13 students and three faculty members. In addition to working with patients one-on-one, the group helps facilitate the Jamboree’s health care system by providing broad public health support. Their work with a diverse team, including physicians, pharmacists, paramedics and U.S. Army staff, has helped the students learn to provide the same quality of care they are accustomed to providing but with limited resources and technology, helping them build confidence in the solid assessment skills they’ve learned in the classroom.
This summer’s Jamboree isn’t the first time medical teams from WVU have provided care during the group’s largest national event, but it is a first for dentistry students and faculty. The team of six students and two faculty members have partnered with the Monongalia County Health Department to provide care utilizing its Smile Express mobile dental office.
“My experience at the Jamboree was definitely unique compared to my normal learning environment,” said Shelbey Groves, a Doctor of Dental Surgery student from Summersville. “In partnering with the MCHD Smile Express, we were able to provide urgent dental care to Scouts out of an RV, an experience that even many seasoned dentists may not have. This really speaks to the quality of education we receive through WVU Dentistry, where versatility, community engagement and sound clinical training are at the forefront.”
Like medical units, all Jamboree attendees have access to base camp mental health units and a central mental health clinic located adjacent to the Jamboree Health Center. Students and faculty from the WVU Department of Psychology volunteering throughout the event provide varying levels of clinical and ancillary services.
Licensed professionals are available to assist Scouts who may be experiencing a mental health illness or disorder, while non-licensed volunteers provide care for short-term concerns, such as homesickness, through a program called Listening Ear.
WVU students who provide Listening Ear care offer individuals a secure, comfortable environment for solitude, relaxation and the opportunity to express their thoughts. Members of the care team are also trained to identify any issues that could have an adverse effect on the health, welfare or safety of the camper and/or any other individual and, if necessary, refer the individual to another health care provider. This is the first year Listening Ear has been implemented at the National Jamboree following its successful introduction at the 2019 World Scout Jamboree.
In between shifts, volunteers are able to take part in their own adventures.
“Being from southern West Virginia, the region that Summit Bechtel Reserve is located in has always held a special place in my heart,” Groves said. “I grew up hiking, rock climbing, kayaking and thriving in the natural beauty of our state, and students at WVU and residents from West Virginia know the exhilarating experiences you can find here.
“We got to explore a lot of the grounds while not on shift and seeing Scouts doing these activities was so incredible. I love that they’re helping people from all over the United States take part in them, too.”
Since the Jamboree found its new home at Summit Bechtel Reserve, WVU has helped provide unforgettable experiences for thousands of Scouts and numerous student and faculty volunteers. WVU students look forward to the event, which is typically held every four years, and seek out opportunities to participate in the event.
“I would wholeheartedly recommend the Jamboree to future students,” Meier said. “By forming connections, learning from experts and immersing myself in diverse experiences, I am better equipped to contribute meaningfully to the field of psychology and positively impact the lives of others following graduation.”
In addition to medical volunteers, the WVU System supports health care efforts for the National Jamboree through equipment and pharmaceutical supplies, such as X-ray technology and medication, provided by WVU Medicine, and mobility vans and drivers to assist individuals with disabilities, supplied by WVU Transportation and Parking.
“WVU is honored to provide support for the National Jamboree,” said Dr. William Ramsey, associate vice president for coordination and logistics and chief collaboration officer for Health Sciences. “As a land-grant institution, we’re committed to advancing education for our students and engaging in communities across the state. Through our collaboration with the Boy Scouts of America, we have developed a valued partnership that helps WVU advance its mission.”
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