Dealing with health forms

Along with welcoming new members into our packs and troops and starting the program year, fall is the time when many units collect updated health forms from their youth and adult members.

The Boy Scouts of America recommends that each member have on file with his or her unit a completed copy of the General Information and Health History form (Part B) so unit leaders can provide essential health information to medical personnel in the event someone needs assistance or treatment. Part B, along with Part C, Pre-Participation Physical, is required by most camps for long-term camping, such as summer camp or resident camps.

Maintaining these records can be a confusing process. Who collects and keeps them? How are they filed? Should they be stored in a database? Who takes them on outings?

There isn’t much guidance on these and other subjects, but many units have developed their own procedures for handling health forms and medications that youth members take along on campouts. A reader of Clarke Green’s ScoutmasterCG.com site asked the question recently, and Clarke bounced it over to me for my thoughts.

Keeping track of health forms and other such paperwork, like permission slips, is a clerical function that falls to the unit committee. In our troop, we have a committee member responsible for coordinating youth protection, health and safety. The position was established when one of our parents saw a need for an improved process out of concern for her own son and his friends. Previously, health forms were only collected prior to summer camp and were given back to the parents when summer camp was over.  Experience told us, however, that having health forms on hand all year could provide needed information in case of an emergency.

The Youth Protection, Health and Safety Coordinator, a registered committee member, maintains a notebook containing everyone’s (youth and adult) health forms. He or she also assists the troop’s Corpsman (a Scoutmaster-established youth position of responsibility) with maintaining the First Aid boxes and other safety gear.

The troop also has two locking tote boxes for bringing medications to and from camp. The H&S coordinator maintains the lock boxes and provides medication forms, which are filled out by the parent for any Scout who must bring medications with him to camp. Each person’s medications and forms are kept together in a zipper-lock bag. The bags are placed in one of the locking tote boxes when leaving for camp and are given back to the parent upon returning home.

The YP/HS coordinator does not need to go on every campout but one adult leader (other than the Scoutmaster) is responsible for bringing the book and medication boxes to and from the campout. That leader and one other (usually the Scoutmaster or committee chair) have a key to the lock boxes.

Scouts are responsible for coming to the adult with the medication box when it’s time to take medications. If the Scout isn’t capable of managing his own medications s in this manner, we ask a parent to come and camp with us to oversee this.

As a result of implementing this process, our summer camp health officers have frequently told us that we have an excellent system set up that helps make for a safer time at camp and takes a lot of the worry and workload off them.

The YP/HS coordinator also sets up, and optionally facilitates, the annual presentation of A Time to Tell, the BSA’s program that teaches youth to recognize, resist and report incidents of abuse. Along with the committee chair, the coordinator tracks youth protection training for adults, keeping copies of their training certificates, and reminding them when it’s time to repeat the training.

Who is entitled to see the health forms? Certainly, the health officer at camp would either keep them on file in the health office or allow the unit to keep them, in which case they should be locked up (such as in the troop trailer) or kept in the tent of the responsible adult. On weekend campouts, any reasonable method of keeping them safe and secure while allowing quick access, such as in an adult’s car, is appropriate. Since Scout units are not healthcare providers, we aren’t subject to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) privacy requirements, so we can share health information as needed. If, for example, someone is injured while at camp, their health form can be shared with the paramedics or emergency room staff to help guide any treatment considerations.

You might think that scanning the forms and keeping them in a database, such as on a leader’s laptop computer or tablet, would be handy, but consider the information security risks associated with these methods. Although not very likely, computers can be stolen or tapped into, potentially exposing what should be private information. And, of course, batteries can run down or hardware can break right when you need them the most.

Keep in mind that this is the way our troop decided to handle the issues of health forms and medications. There is no one best way of doing this, so consider this a suggestion. Do what works best for your unit, but do your best to keep your Scouts safe.


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