Story by Jordan Milne | Jun 26, 2017

Nursing is a profession for the strong in spirit and the tender in heart. Here we recognize two local nurses who have turned these attributes into a lifelong profession of care and compassion.

Debbie Caminiti, RNC, C-EFM

SSM Health St. Mary’s Obstetrics Nurse

Registered nurse Debbie Caminiti started in the obstetrics wing of St. Mary’s Hospital the day after she graduated from nursing school. It will be her 35th year there this December 13th.

Caminiti credits two people in particular for influencing her career path. “Way back at Vienna High School, our school nurse, Gloria Brunnert, was such a kind and compassionate woman. I wanted to be like her,” says Caminiti. “During health occupations class, she took her tender, innocent students to St. Mary’s Hospital to get a taste of patient care. My very first patient was an older man. I was to give him a complete bath. On the bus ride home, I clapped my hand over my mouth in horror and then confessed to Mrs. Brunnert that I had not given him a ‘complete’ bath.” She had skipped his private area. “Hence, I’m in OB, where all my patients are female.”

Caminiti also acknowledges Lucy Brenner of Lincoln University, her nursing school instructor for obstetrics, for drawing her into the field.

“She made the deliveries fun and exciting and taught us to see each one of them as a blessed event,” says Caminiti. “I still feel the same way about each delivery.”

Even after all these deliveries, Caminiti says that “family” is what keeps her in the business of birthing babies at SSM Health St. Mary’s. “We are like one big family in OB,” she says. “We are there for each other in good times and in bad. All the nurses, OB techs, and doctors work together very well, especially in an emergency situation. This article could be about any one of them — they are an awesome crew!”

It just so happens that some of Caminiti’s co-workers are also literally her family. Her sister, Janie Bauer, has been an OB nurse for more than 38 years. “When we work a delivery together, I tell my patient that we’re the ‘sisters of St. Mary’s,’ but that Janie is closer to being a nun than I. She is the kindest person I know.”

Caminiti’s cousin by marriage, Cathy Singer, has been a SSM Health St. Mary’s nursery nurse for 43 years, and her nieces, Jenny and Cali Stegeman, also work in the hospital. Even Caminiti’s mother, Betty Stegeman, serves at SSM Health St. Mary’s; she has crocheted over 300 blankets a year for the past five years for SSM Health St. Mary’s babies, which she proudly calls “her mission.”

While Caminiti loves having connections with her own St. Mary’s family, what she’s most passionate about in her work are the connections she makes to her patients and their families.

“You are helping the patients and their families with one of the most important events of their lives,” says Caminiti. “You try to make their experience as rewarding as possible. You make such an impact on them, and they’ll remember your role in that for a very long time. I run into people at Wal-Mart who say, ‘Hey Debbie! How are you? Here’s my baby!’ It’s very rewarding.”

She says that there are many memorable moments in her line of work, but one recurring situation always gets her.

“I can openly admit that I’m moved when the dad gets his first glimpse of his newborn baby and then tears up,” says Caminiti. “It gets me every time. It’s a powerful experience.”

Caminiti says that when someone finds out that you’re an OB nurse, “whether they are 16 or 86 years old, they’ll tell you all about their birth experiences.

“Bringing life into this world is always a new and joyous occasion,” she says. “I may leave work totally exhausted after 12 hours, but always with a good feeling in my heart.”

Carol England, RN

Goldschmidt Cancer Center Oncology Nurse

Carol England, an oncology nurse at the Capital Region Medical Center’s Goldschmidt Cancer Center, started her career as a registered nurse in 1973. In the years since, she’s given birth to four children and worked as a nurse in Mexico (Missouri), Columbia, Kirksville, Kansas City, and St. Charles before finally settling in Jefferson City.

“I’m not sure what started my passion for nursing,” says England. “Just seemed like I always knew what I wanted to do. I remember wanting to be a nurse since I was 6 years old. I loved to read biographies when I was young, and I particularly enjoyed ones about nurses. Clara Barton [the Civil War nurse who founded the American Red Cross] was a favorite.”

England worked a variety of areas in nursing before focusing on oncology in 1990. She first worked in a cancer-screening clinic, then as a chemotherapy infusion room nurse, and later in clinical trials research. 

“As an oncology nurse, I’m inspired by the special brand of courage each cancer patient demonstrates,” says England. “Being diagnosed with cancer is an extremely stressful time for patients and their families, and I’m thankful when I can help them along their journey.”

In 2004, England became an oncology-nurse, which requires two or more years of practical experience followed by a certification exam and continuing education for renewal of the certification.

England decided to focus on radiation oncology in 2007, and she’s been working at the Goldschmidt Cancer Center ever since. 

“I have the chance to help someone every day,” England says. “And I have the added advantage of working with a great team of people at Goldschmidt.”

Since 2006, England has also been serving the Jefferson City cancer patient community as the nurse advisor for Encouragement Through Caring, a local breast cancer support group that meets every month.

“Helping women sort out the complications of breast cancer treatments, and even long term effects of cancer and treatments, is rewarding,” she says. “Having experience with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, I feel like I’m able to move them in the right direction.”

England has also served as chairwoman for Capital Region’s Relay for Life team for the past six years. She says that working with cancer patients outside the hospital is “a natural extension of what I already do.”

“There are so many things that hit [a cancer patient] all at once, from the treatments to the finances to balancing work and family,” says England. “I just want to guide them through. It’s always terrific to see survivors at any time along their journey. Some have better outcomes than others, and only God knows when their time here is done. We’re here to help them as we can along the way.”