Camp counselors working with chronically ill children
Fiala, Samuel E.
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A growing body of empirical evidence suggests that attending specialized summer camps is beneficial for chronically ill youth (Briery & Rabian, 1999). However, there is some inconsistency across studies regarding these benefits (Hazzard & Angert, 1986). One potential explanation for these differences across camps is that they may differ in how well they recruit and train effective volunteer camp counselors. This possibility cannot be explored until more research is conducted identifying what type of person volunteers to work with chronically ill children and how they differ from others. In response to this gap in the research literature, the present study was conducted to examine characteristics of volunteer camp counselors (n =72), a group of nonvolunteers (n = 325), and a group of volunteer mentors (n = 194). Guided by Omoto and Snyder?s (1990) volunteer process model, the investigation explored how counselors differed from others in terms of dispositional variables, knowledge, and experience; and the relation between these individual characteristics and ratings of counselor efficacy was explored. Changes in counselors? knowledge of and/or attitudes toward chronically ill children after their camp experience were also examined. Results suggest that camp counselors differ from others in terms of dispositional characteristics (e.g., attachment style), knowledge, and experience. Specifically, counselors displayed higher levels of agreeableness, greater attachment security, more knowledge of chronic illness, and greater experience with chronic illness than nonvolunteers. Efforts to predict which counselors would be rated as most effective were unsuccessful. Counselors? knowledge of illness increased over the course of their camp experience.