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From Bedside to Poolside: Meet Riley Nurse Shelby Arney

Shelby Arney fishing at camp
Shelby Arney fishing at camp (photo provided)

This summer, Riley nurse Shelby Arney is working in the woods. Not only is Shelby a nurse in developmental pediatrics at Riley Children’s Health, but she also has a unique role as nursing director at Camp Riley, a fully accessible summer camp for youth with physical and cognitive diagnoses.

While in nursing school, Shelby discovered her passion for working with kids on a medical mission trip to Peru. “I knew that after graduation working at Riley was a dream for me,” she says. She has worked at Riley for five years and is in the middle of her second summer at Camp Riley. She shared with us about what it means to support Riley patients in the hospital and at camp.

What does a summer at Camp Riley look like for you?

I go to Bradford Woods at the beginning of the summer to provide medical training to the staff so that they understand the care needed for the campers. Before camp starts, I do an inventory of the health center and order supplies. Camp Riley goes from the end of May through July, with most sessions lasting one week. Camp starts on Sunday afternoon and is an overnight camp that extends until Friday morning. Throughout the week I am calling parents with any updates that arise, keeping them in the loop on their child's medical care. A typical day consists of giving medications at mealtimes, health center hours in between meals, and bedtime routines in the cabins. Overnight the other nurses and I take turns being on call to be readily available for overnight needs that occur. After dinner is evening program, and this is an event that the medical team attends since all the campers are in one place. One of the evening programs I look forward to each week is the talent show. Each camper gets the opportunity to go on stage and truly let their personality shine.

How has working at Camp Riley influenced the way you approach your job at the hospital, and vice versa?

Working at Camp Riley last summer truly changed my life and the type of nurse I am today. I noticed when I came back to the hospital I grew in my confidence and my ability to take care of these kids. I had the opportunity to take care of them when they weren't sick and truly started to understand what their care entailed and the extent of it when they weren't at the hospital. I find myself better able to relate to parents and making sure all their concerns are addressed. I try my best to make the hospital replicate their home schedule and routine as much as possible, knowing that this can help these kids feel as comfortable as possible when away from home.

Shelby messy at camp
Shelby joins the messy fun at Camp Riley.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job, whether it’s at the hospital or at camp, is seeing kids reach their goals and accomplish things they never thought they could do. I love watching the progress they make and how far they've come given the obstacles that have been put in front of them. They truly inspire me with their courage and strength.

What does being a Riley nurse mean to you?

I believe that being a Riley nurse means providing each patient with the absolute best care possible. Being a child in the hospital is never easy or ideal, and it’s my job to make sure the patient is having the best experience possible. Being a Riley nurse means always advocating for the patient and making sure that they are at the center of everything, because at the end of the day these patients are why we are all there and getting them better is the goal. It also means taking care of the patient holistically. I am always doing my best to make sure all their needs are being met.

If you could send a message to Riley Children’s Foundation donors, what would you say?

Your donations are doing more for these kids than you will ever know. Camp Riley is such an amazing place where everyone is welcome, and these kids can have a summer camp experience with other kids who can relate to them like no one else can. For a short time during the summer, campers get to just be a kid and truly can accomplish anything. I am so grateful for your donations that make this summer camp possible. It’s truly a life-changing experience for all these kids that they only receive at Camp Riley.