Nurse Practitioner students make an impact at nationally-renowned inclusive youth summer camp

The Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences (Johnson Beth-El) provides nursing and health sciences education to new and advancing nurses through a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs to become a BSN registered nurse, nurse practitioner, or doctor of nursing practice.

Health care program students often learn through hands-on experiences, and practice. Nurses are no exception. Throughout both undergraduate and graduate nursing programs, students earn clinical hours working alongside practicing professionals in a variety of hospital or clinical settings.

This summer, Johnson Beth-El students packed their bags for camp! That’s right, summer camp. Graduate nursing students pursuing a nurse practitioner credential were invited to take part in a unique clinical learning experience with Roundup River Ranch.

Roundup River Ranch was founded as an inclusive summer camp experience for kids with medically fragile conditions by the late actor Paul Newman. Later, a camp was also established in the Vail Valley area of Colorado.

Today, Roundup River Ranch campers continually show improved confidence, higher self-esteem, a greater sense of independence, and an increased interest in social activities after attending camp. 

Each week, over the course of the summer, the camp houses children with different complex medical diagnoses. The camp facilities provide medical services at an intensive care level due to the nature of the campers’ condition(s) along with a helicopter pad in the event medical evacuation is required. Medical specialists from Children’s Hospital, along the Front Range, volunteered their time for the week their patients attended camp. Volunteers from across the state, and around the country, served as counselors and staff. This also included a special group of UCCS Johnson Beth-El graduate nursing students.

The graduate nursing students who volunteered were assigned to a cabin to share with their patients. They provided daily medication, comfort, and care as needed and in return received clinical contact hours. Each nurse has the opportunity to learn from and to relate to these campers, not by their diagnoses, but as active children.

The camp offered a wide variety of activities that these children may not have had the opportunity to experience. In addition to arts and crafts, campers fished, canoed, rowed, rock climbed, zip lined, played baseball, basketball, and other sports, learned music, and enjoyed an evening campfire. Each weeklong session culminated in a talent show, the last evening campers were together. The camp is a healing experience for special children.

Each year the camp has a theme and this year’s theme was “Shine On.” The theme was evident in the happy faces of each camper and the camp staff.

During our summer camp session, the graduate nursing students and faculty were shown a sensory outdoor area that was full of active children.

Piotr, a Graduate Nurse Practitioner student, recounted his summer experiences: “I have volunteered at Roundup River Ranch twice now…the first time, in 2022, I signed up simply to get some pediatric clinical contact hours, but I left with so much more than that. There are very few times in our careers in healthcare where we can see so clearly the meaning of the work we do and the impact we have on other people’s lives. I made sure that these memories are forever ingrained in my mind so I can easily reach in for them and remember how amazing these kiddos are and how much impact we have on their lives.”

One of the staff mentioned how special these camp sessions were to her. “These kiddos often do not live for very long and these moments and memories that they create, which we are so fortunate to be a part of, can be some of the best moments during their short lives,” she said. “I intend to keep coming back as long as I can, because there simply is not a better lens to truly see the impact that we can have on people’s lives other than the experience at Roundup River Ranch.”

Julie, also a Graduate Nurse Practitioner student, added, “Roundup River Ranch was an entirely new experience as a nurse for me. It was definitely the most fun environment I’ve ever done anything nursing related in. Their team is fantastic, welcoming and supportive. Being around the campers’, having fun is contagious. And the setting was stunningly beautiful. I feel really lucky to have spent time up there and plan on going up again in the future.”

The healing that occurs at Roundup River Camp is exemplified by the fact that it was funded by the Paul Newman trust and other funding to allow the children to attend camp free of charge. There is also a virtual program for children not able to attend camp in person.

In addition to summer camp, Roundup River Ranch offers family weekend camps throughout the year. For more information about this extraordinary camp program, visit their website at

– Written by Dr. Carole Traylor, DNP, APRN, CPNP-PC, Dr. LaVonne Johnson, DNP, APRN, FNP-C, and Beth Graham

About Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences

The Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences has trained and educated the region’s health professionals and human performance professionals for over 118 years, and in 2022, celebrated 25 years with the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS).

At Johnson Beth-El, students meet the needs of a rapidly changing health care landscape by providing innovative, nationally accredited, and ranked programs.

Johnson Beth-El’s nursing programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The Clinical Simulation Learning Center is accredited by the Society for Simulation in Healthcare (SSH). The Master’s of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics is the first Future Education Model (FEM) registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) program in Colorado and accredited by ACEND. The Doctor of Physical Therapy program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). The Master of Science in Athletic Training (MSAT) became the first graduate athletic training program in Colorado when it was awarded CAATE accreditation in Spring 2020.

Our traditional Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) program is ranked nationally by US News and World Report. The Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences ranks #67 out of 681 national nursing programs. The Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences is consistently ranked as a US News and World Report’s Top online Master’s in Nursing program for veterans. In 2022, we ranked #1 in the state of Colorado for veterans. Learn more about the Johnson Beth-El at