I’m Not a Doctor But …



“I’m not a doctor, but I play one on camping trips.”

No Scout leader has probably ever said that, but many of us have ended up acting in the role of a doctor or nurse in dispensing medications to our Scouts. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 6 percent of adolescents take psychotropic drugs, including drugs to treat depression and ADHD, while more than 8 percent of children have asthma. Add in over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol to treat headaches and muscle pain, and you may end up with more medications on a campout than you can manage.

That’s one reason the BSA puts the responsibility for taking medicine on the individual–not on the unit. In most cases, Scouts can manage their own prescriptions with guidance from adult leaders. The new “Medication Use in Scouting” document has much more information.

I encourage you to study this document carefully before your next outing. When you do, you’ll discover that putting the responsibility on the Scout does not mean being totally hands off. Instead, you, the Scout, and his parents should work together ahead of time to come up with a plan for his medication. You need to know what he’s taking–there should be no “secret” medications–and you may need to provide secure storage for his drugs. You and other adult leaders also must know how to administer emergency medications like epinephrine or insulin. And you’ll need prior permission (via the Annual Health and Medical Record) to dispense over-the-counter drugs.

Oh, and one more point. If a Scout with ADHD is getting a little squirrelly, the last thing you should do is shout, “Johnny, go take a pill.” Remember: You’re not a doctor, nor should you play one in Scouting.


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