You may be aware that another revision to the health and medical record form has been announced. The new form, expected to be officially released this month, is intended for use across all BSA programs, from the unit level to Jamboree and high adventure bases. The main changes include being bilingual (English & Spanish) and some of the pages being scannable, as with the current membership forms. While it’s intended to provide comprehensive information for Jambo attendees, it becomes mandatory for unit use in January 2014.
The prospect of having to figure out yet another revision to the form can be annoying at best, and daunting to some, but its intention is to provide an improvement in the safety and health of both our youth and adult participants. The inconvenience of having to complete it annually, and for long-term camping to have a medical exam each year, is outweighed by the peace of mind that comes from knowing that everyone’s health status and the information that can help in an emergency is all in one place.
Recently on one of the Scouting discussion groups, there was a thread on how units handle medical forms. One post stood out from the rest. Keeping the writer anonymous, I’ll paraphrase what was posted:
Our troop doesn’t use the Boy Scout health form because nobody likes it. It has not been an issue for us – our troop never goes to Boy Scout-owned summer camp, or any of its high adventure bases… At a district camporee we ran into a problem when the medical officer said he would not accept our troop’s own medical form, but when I threatened to take our boys and go home, he changed his mind… We try to get a new form from the parents each year, but the parents resist doing so because “the information hasn’t changed”, so we let it slide. We’re thinking of enforcing it but we haven’t gotten that far yet… One of our troop parents is a pharmacist and is reviewing all the medication information to see if he sees any problems with it… I take and enter all the medical form information, along with every possible phone number, into my cell phone so it’s available at any time in case it’s needed, but we don’t keep the forms or personal information like social security numbers with us on campouts because of the risk that someone will break in and steal the information… We’re also careful about how much of a Scout’s information we share with the SPL and his patrol leader, but it’s kind of hard to keep a boy’s condition confidential if he needs to be awakened at 6:00 am to take medication.
Wow, I don’t know your reaction, but to me, this is wrong on so many levels. I almost have to think it was written in satire, but just in case it wasn’t, here are the counter-arguments:
- “Because nobody likes it” is not a reason not to use the BSA mandated official health form. In fact, the instruction section accompanying the health form gives the BSA policy on use of the form, which states: Parts A and B are to be completed at least annually by participants in all Scouting events and Part C is the physical exam that is required for participants in any event that exceeds 72 consecutive hours, for all high-adventure base participants, or when the nature of the activity is strenuous and demanding. Service projects or work weekends may fit this description.To me, this makes it clear that BSA expects us to use the form as designed, and not to either use our own form or just skip it. Despite its frequent revisions, the health and medical record form is intended to collect and document the information pertinent to our outdoor program with its inherent risks. A unit should not attempt to reinvent or circumvent the BSA’s well-researched process just because they don’t like the form.
- Sure, it’s possible to conduct your own summer camp and many troops do this, but why go to the trouble? BSA camps have specific comprehensive health and safety requirements, including staffing at all times by qualified, trained health officers and rapid response agreements with local EMT crews. If you don’t like your council’s camp, try another council. Some camps will even allow you to run your own program and dining service on their property if you don’t want to use theirs. (And if you do run your own summer camp, do you have your own health officer? With what qualifications? Does it meet state requirements?) Another reason to use your council’s camp: Camps will close if they aren’t utilized! (Don’t believe me? It’s happening here in Michigan.)
- Assuming the need for health forms was stated in advance, the camporee should have refused registration if the BSA health forms were not provided. Our camporee staff have had to keep a stack of blank health forms on hand for Scouts without them, and they ask to have them completed on the spot – or else, no registration.
- Once the parents understand why the form has to be submitted each year, they’ll do it. (One of the participants in the discussion thread is a band director and said he has frequently seen big health changes in his students from year to year.) They do for school, sports, church or other activities. Yes, yet another form can be troublesome, but it’s for the boys’ safety.
- Is the pharmacist parent going to second-guess the Scout’s physician and family pharmacist? What sort of insight could he add? What do you do to provide similar coverage when he leaves the troop? Do the parents know that a third party, no matter how qualified, is looking over their son’s information?
- Did you stop to consider that your phone could be stolen, lost or compromised far more easily than a binder of health forms locked inside a trailer or an adult’s car? It’s admirable to want to have the information at your fingertips, but bear in mind that there are security risks whenever information is stored in any format. Unit leaders are told that they must always protect the privacy of their unit members by safeguarding the information.
- As for the social security number, it is up to the parents to decide whether to provide it or not, but the BSA cautions that in many states, medical care cannot be rendered without it.
- Finally, none of this needs to be shared with the boys. It’s either shared by the parent with the adult leaders, or the parent comes along if it’s critical. While unit leaders may take responsibility for administering medication, they are specifically not required nor necessarily encouraged to do so.
Please read the BSA’s annual health and medical record webpage including the list of frequently-asked questions which explains a lot about the form and our policies and procedures. There is also extensive information in the Health and Safety section of the BSA website. Forms are a hassle, no matter how simple, but in this case the health and medical record form is a must.