There is No Better Training than Being a Counselor!


Ariella Slovin, M.D., emergency room pediatrician, Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, DC, shares these reflections:

In my opinion, there is no better training for any job than being a camp counselor.

Being a counselor at camp is so multi-faceted, thereby promoting and developing a number of different skills that are applicable to pretty much any job. For me, those skills are applicable to my current work as a pediatrician in the ER of a children’s hospital.

Working at camp helped me learn how to excel at team-based work, especially when the teams are comprised of individuals with different personalities and skill sets. That experience with team-based dialogue and communication helps me when working with other doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and social workers to help care for patients.

Camp also creates an environment where, from a young age, one is empowered to be a leader.  Camp is an alternate universe where the young lead the young; placing young people in leadership roles helps generate confidence  at a formative time in their lives, and this confidence is long-lasting.  Camp was a place where I felt comfortable and supported, and this allowed me to find my voice and to use it to positively impact others.  This confidence has stuck with me to this day and enabled me to question and interject appropriately, among my peers, and even superiors in my field, when evaluating patients and making decisions regarding diagnoses.

Lastly, and most importantly, creativity is a crucial aspect of working at camp that is integral to most professional fields. The ability to think on one’s feet and spontaneously create solutions to unanticipated problems is as integral a part of treating a complicated patient as it is to creating peulot erev.  These soft skills are difficult to teach–camp provides an environment of comfort, support, and constant motion that allows for the development of such skills that are critical for success. Working in an ER setting requires me to evaluate efficiently, and this often involves being decisive as well as coming up with alternative explanations as quickly as possible.

If it weren’t for camp, I would not be the doctor that I am today. The abilities to work in team settings, be confident in my decision-making, and quickly propose possible causes of the symptoms I see were all strengthened at an early age, as I took on the role of camp counselor. I wouldn’t have guessed that would be the case, but I also wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.