The nurse who returned home…Camille Wade-Deterville is a ‘Special Person’
By Leon Suseran
”Ever since I left Guyana and went to the States, I said it would be good if I can come to Guyana and give back and I wanted to do that while I still had good health.”
Camille Wade-Deterville also known as Camille Mitchell is a ‘Science’ girl. You don’t find too many females who are attracted to the field of Science and Mathematics. Camille, being the innovative woman she is, has used her knowledge in those arenas to enrich her life as a health-care provider. Today, she has earned herself a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Nursing and
is now molding young nurses geared to work in the country’s health system. Camille has placed confidence in the hearts of the many persons she cared for and nurtured during her career in nursing, especially overseas where she spent part of her life. Her patriotism and love for Guyana compelled her to return home to give back to this nation, the nation of her birth and she is doing that at present. She was born to Eugene and Bobsy Wade at Plantation Ross, West Berbice and grew up at Plantation Yeoville, not far away.
She attended St. Jude’s Primary, West Berbice, passing the Common Entrance Exams in 1970 before attending the Tutorial High School in Georgetown. Growing up, she recalled her “great childhood”. “I miss some of the outdoor games we played even though we weren’t allowed to leave our own yard.”She had a “very strict” upbringing and “my father always wanted to know where we were—always… we had to always be within line of sight; the boys had a little more freedom than we did”. She enjoyed it and believes that it helped her to shape her later life. “Using that, it helped me to raise my kids also”, she recalled. “I felt loved as a child growing up and I grew up learning to respect elders and I taught my children that— today, we see a totally different story.” She grew up with a sense of pride and always knew what she wanted. She had a very high self- esteem. “I had no problem with that; I was always confident and knew what I wanted and went for it, without fear”.She transferred to the Berbice High School in 1975 and passed the O’Levels exams and began her working life as a school teacher. But her first choice was always to become a nurse.
“I always had that caring nature within me, but my parents said nurses worked all hours of the night and they didn’t want me to be out”. Science and Math are her loved subjects. As a young girl, she was always intrigued by the fields and at one point, she even thought about becoming an astronomer, “because I always liked the stars and the moon. Physics… I love it and always wanted to know how the boats sailed and why they didn’t sink…Chemistry… I always did well and never wanted anyone to get a higher grade. I had great Science teachers in primary and secondary.”She taught at Lichfield Primary at age
19 in 1977 and entered the Teachers’ Training College in 1978, graduating two years later. She got married in 1981 and bore two children… that marriage lasted for 11 years. Camille started to attend the University of Guyana in 1982 and graduated with a Science Teachers’ Certificate. She later worked at the Wales Community High School before moving to the Stewartville Secondary. After her husband left Guyana, she returned to West Berbice and taught again at Lichfield Primary. Her Science background then led her to Bush Lot Secondary. She applied to UG again to do the Bachelor’s of Education Degree and taught at North Georgetown Secondary.
During her first year of that programme, she switched to the Bachelor of Science Degree programme, majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry.
During the third year of studies, she joined her husband in the USA. Her daughter at the time in 1989 badly needed medical attention so this spurred her decision to move to the U.S.She then entered the Inter-faith Medical Centre School of Nursing in Brooklyn, NY and began her training in what would become a long and fruitful career. She entered the Nursing School in 1991 and graduated in 1993 with an Associate Degree in Applied Science majoring in Nursing. She sat for the Registered Nursing Board examination and passed it. She began her first job as an RN at Brooklyn Hospital in New York. Camille then completed her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing too.She worked in acute care, long-term care, (several hospitals in New York and Georgia in the USA) occupational health nursing, correctional health working in the jail system, home health and “all fields of nursing, including two years in public health nursing.”Camille also worked at the Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center in Manhattan- a 750-bed facility – as a Staff Development Instructor for over three years and with the Visiting Nurse/Hospice Atlanta as a Performance Improvement Coordinator. “Ever since I left Guyana and went to the States, I said it would be good if I can come to Guyana and give back and I wanted to do that while I still had good health.”
Back home again
She returned to Guyana in 2009 and fulfilled her promise and applied to the Ministry of Health. It was at the Georgetown School of Nursing that she one day asked Principal Tutor Semple if there was a need and she responded in the affirmative. Camille is currently Tutor 1 at the New Amsterdam School of Nursing since January of this year, molding and training young nurses.
Camille has spent quite a number of years in home health care delivery which entailed her visiting homes of her clients and administering health care. “You had a more one-on-one contact with your patients,” she noted. “I had more satisfaction even though it entails a lot more traveling but I enjoyed it.”
She worked, too, in the prisons and that proved to be very interesting, being a female in those prison facilities. “It was a good experience; if you can work in the prison, you can work anywhere else.” Our ‘Special Person’ worked as a private duty nurse and had very rich and famous clients whom she vividly recalled. She has even worked for the father-in-law of the owner of Victoria Secret, which is famous for its lingerie line. It “was an experience of a lifetime because he had a team of nurses in New York and another team of nurses in Ohio and I am not sure if we had any other Caribbean nurses on any of the teams besides me.” Many times, she accompanied her patient on a private jet, “the manservant, the patient, patient’s wife, the nurse, the pilot and the stewardess… I experienced all of that and to see the way they lived, even though they had so much, they were so humble and not too many people can experience this in a lifetime, to work beside folks that worked in the Buckingham Palace- work with a nurse who was once the private duty nurse of Sir Winston Churchill— just awesome man.
That was an experience of a lifetime”. ”I had patients tell me, “nurse, you are the best nurse I ever had”.” When asked how it feels to be training young nurses in New Amsterdam today, she responded, “it feels good and it was something I always wanted to do; there was always the urge so I feel good, more so that I can come back and do it, because I know there is a big difference with the practicing of nursing here compared to U.S.A.” She however believes that the U.S. has the best trained nurses… “they set the standards”. She believes in this regard that Guyana still has some way to go. What makes a good nurse? “Somebody who is caring, who has empathy, selfless, who understands that the person on the bed needing the care could have been he or she [the nurse]; one who is knowledgeable, who has good interpersonal skill; who can stand up and be a good advocate for his or her patient at any time; who can communicate well with other care-givers, the doctors and other nurses and other disciplines in the health field and who wants to always go to a higher level, learn something more or new and who wants to move with the time”.
To the nurses who are not performing, she said, “if you don’t like it and if it’s something you don’t enjoy, you don’t care for people or don’t want to be around people, you have to find something else to do; go where your passion would take you and follow your heart because in nursing, you have to have this heart-to-heart contact with your patient and if you can’t have that, then you’re not going to be a good nurse and should not be in nursing.” She enjoys teaching her students and seeing them being endowed with the knowledge she is imparting in them over the past couple of months. She is currently teaching Disaster Preparedness and also physiology and the nursing process. “Just knowing that there is a process to follow
when you’re doing nursing; you just don’t do your own thing and to show them the different processes involved in each step so that you can reach your goal.” Camille does not have any regrets in life nor would she do anything differently. Her two children are also in the healthcare field. Her younger daughter graduated as a Respiratory Therapist and the older one is following in her (her mother’s) footsteps as a nurse.
She is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Nursing. Our ‘Special Person’ is making a call for especially young people to enter nursing. “It is a wonderful profession for anyone who gets a sense of satisfaction caring for people or wanting to care for people. It’s a career where one can advance and become a nurse and later become a doctor if he/she so desires— I think nurses make the best doctors”.
She noted the many, many areas where one can progress from being a nurse; “you don’t have to stick to bed-side nursing once you are finished; you have occupational health— you can work with the airlines, the insurance company— I did and you can earn a lot of money.
Public health nursing, medexes, “is very rewarding…for both males and females and I would encourage the males out there especially those with a Science background.” Males, she said, are the minority in the profession due to the fear and stigma attached to them being a nurse “because some feel that this is a girl’s thing but times have changed, roles have changed, the world has changed; gender roles are changing…so men should get into nursing; it’s a great career for anybody and a great profession to enter; more men want to become doctors, so go ahead and join the nursing profession and see what it’s like.”
During her spare time, she enjoys reading and traveling as well as being on Skype talking to her kids and grandkids. Camille loves the Golden Oldies as well as pop music “and I love Gregory Isaacs, reggae, soca. I like to look at movies, I love comedies.” Reflecting on her life and career, she feels a sense of contentment returning to these shores to give back. “I did this because I would like my children to still have that connection to Guyana and to have the grandkids know where their mothers are from”. “I love Guyana too much, man; I love this country and I have to give back here and give back there (USA) because I got so much from there, too, you know, America is a great country… greatest—and I am very grateful for my training there as a nurse, very grateful and appreciative that I can take that knowledge and bring it back here to share.”