I Was A Nurse At Burning Man. The Rumors Were Wrong


                                                              By Jenn Romantino

I volunteered my medical expertise as a registered nurse for four years to help burners during Burning Man 2023. I really enjoy being at Burning Man and assisting burners with their medical needs. They are the most appreciative patients I have ever encountered.

Many tell us that this is better medical care than they receive at home. On the one hand, I'm glad we are helping them, but on the other that makes me very sad.

There were some great highs at this year's event despite the weather. I saw a lot of eclectic art installations.

Everything from the traditional man and non-denominational temple structures to The Tip of The Iceberg, which was a 30-foot clitoris sculpture to promote women's sexual health and knowledge.

There are also interactive art pieces and amazing mutant vehicles spouting fire-blasting music. And because of radical self-expression, people can dress—or not dress—however they please. Because the theme was Animalia this year, many people wore a lot of animal print clothing or costumes.

I spent my time off from work with my campmates exploring the event and celebrating a couple of birthdays. I was able to make new friends with people I even met through my TikTok account. And was constantly inspired by the amount of creativity that surrounded me.

On Sunday night, about 30 fire performers took the stage at Dustfish camp to entertain people. They rallied together to help keep spirits up.

But the weather, of course, was our low this year. I left my Friday night shift at medical after the torrential downpour and returned to camp to find the water had collapsed my tent and the floor was wet.

I spent Friday to Monday in that rain-soaked tent. Luckily, my cot was dry—but my bedding was toast. We also had to shelter in place, so I remained in camp instead of venturing out.

The mud made everything extremely difficult. The porta potties hadn't been serviced in days. Medical providers had to be on foot instead of using the ambulances and quick response vehicles. Ice ran out at camps, which had also happened in 2022 but that was due to the extreme heat.

When the playa becomes wet, it forms a clay-like matter. With every step, the clay stacks on top of each other until it looks and feels like you are wearing platform shoes.

Personally, from what I experienced, I believe the media, both social and traditional, completely blew things out of proportion instead of fact-checking from people on the ground. I feel that they took a sensationalized approach.

Why would the Government send in the National Guard and FEMA for two days of rain?

The rumors were ridiculous. It was worrisome and disheartening as the rain continued, but it seemed that most people's spirits remained very high. A camp next to mine continued to serve pho soup every day to people who were cold and hungry. These random acts of kindness were everywhere in Black Rock City. I heard of other camps doing similar things.

I made the rounds every morning to check on some campmates who had flu-like symptoms, some with gastrointestinal issues, and a child in the camp, but no one ever required medical attention. We also shared supplies, food, water to help each other because that is the burner way.

I spent Monday breaking down my camp and getting ready in case we were able to leave. I figured worst case scenario, I could always sleep in my car, which honestly was warmer and drier than my tent at that point.

As soon as the Burning Man radio station announced the gate was open again with a five-to-six hour wait time, I jumped at the chance and left. It took seven hours for me to leave the playa.

The weather did throw off my plan to decompress from the event. I was going to rewrite the first draft of my first novel—a young adult, post-apocalyptic dystopian adventure—but I at least had one day to work on it in Tahoe before I head home.

I will return to Burning Man, but I may take a year off here and there. I love being surrounded by the creativity and community at Burning Man and I really enjoy using my medical skills to help burners.

Next year, though, I'm buying or renting a campervan. I think my tent days are finally behind me.

Jenn Romantino is a registered nurse, an award-winning filmmaker known for her creative storytelling, and an author in the world of young adult literature.



  • Sounds like a great time ruined by rain, just like Woodstock 94. The attendees were not prepared for the rain and the cold that came with it (low 40's overnight), mud and overflowing porta-johns everywhere... We were the last standing medical aid tent by Monday morning and worked for almost 24 hours without any food (that we didn't pack in) or staff relief.

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