BACKGROUND: Children and adolescents recovering from burn injury are at heightened risk of psychosocial problems. An integrative form of psychosocial intervention is burn camp. However, evidence about burn camp effectiveness is equivocal.
OBJECTIVES: This study examined the role of therapeutic camp experiences in the recovery journeys of children and adolescents who had experienced burn injury and been treated in a tertiary pediatric hospital in Brisbane, Australia.
METHODS: Retrospective semi-structured interviews were conducted with youths and parents. Inductive reflexive thematic analysis was used with pooled interview data.
RESULTS: The participants were eight youths who attended at least one burns camp (between 2009 and 2019) and 15 parents of youth campers. An overwhelming majority (96%) reported a positive experience of camp, that they would return, and that they recommended the camp to other youth with burns. The four strengths of the camp experience were fun, adventurous activities; social relatedness (friendships, socializing); camp setting and experience; and acceptance. The four impacts of the camp on youth campers were normalizing ("I'm not the only one", shared experience); social support (making new friendships, social confidence, mentoring others); psychological recovery (happier, mentally stronger, more resilient, independence building); and confidence (increased self-confidence, increased social confidence, leadership development).
CONCLUSIONS: Although this is the first known research about burn camp in Australia, the findings are similar to a handful of other qualitative studies about burn camp experiences and impacts. Recommendations include future research on aspects of camp experiences that contribute to targeted outcomes, the role of staff and previous camp participants as mentors, and comparisons with other psychosocial interventions for youth burn survivors.