On Camille Edwards’ first day as Site Manager of Mobile Health’s Bronx clinic, N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo had just shuttered all non-essential businesses and ordered all hospitals to double capacity. The RN admits to a little “nurse guilt” at the time, over not doing hands-on patient care in the overwhelmed hospitals.
‘Blessed to Be on the Back Line’
However, that guilt quickly dissipated as she realized Mobile Health’s impact on the fight against COVID-19. “I felt very blessed to be part of the back line getting the front line staff ready and into the hospitals.” Every Respirator Fit Test (RFT) she completed for hospital transporters, dietary staff, housekeepers, and other essential workers further convinced Camille of her—and her staff’s—contribution, she says.
She credits her “fabulous” Bronx staff of 12 for helping her to adapt to the clinic’s new normal, which entails strict appointment scheduling and front-door screening of patients using Mobile Health’s COVID-19 health questionnaire. Daily COVID-19 updates from Mobile Health Assistant Medical Director Nicolas Rossetti helped Camille and other site managers to stay abreast of the latest Coronavirus developments, she said.
Varied Nursing Career
Her unique healthcare path has taught Camille to not only advocate for her patients, but also for her nurses. Early on, work with drug-addicted patients inspired the RN to treat everyone with the same dignity, respect, and care, regardless of their mental or physical condition. That experience at the forefront of integrated health led to the thrill of presenting her master’s thesis, Comparative Models in Methadone Maintenance Clinics, in Oxford, England.
From there, she spent the next 15 years as a nurse representative for nurses’ unions, including the New York State Nurses Association. Though a step back from patient care, the work took Camille out of her comfort zone, exposing her to layoffs, bankruptcies, consolidation, grievances, rallies, and other factors that affect nurses. Ultimately, that challenging work enabled her “to effect change with nursing practice.”
“Like Nothing I’ve Ever Seen”
Despite her extensive experience, working during the pandemic was “like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Camille notes. “My early walks to work were desolate. I could see the sidewalk,” she remembers. “Fordham Road is usually bustling.”
Then came the day she arrived at the Bronx clinic to find its front window shattered. The Mobile Health clinic was one of many businesses in the community that was damaged as part of ongoing demonstrations throughout New York City and the nation. The clinic reopened the following day, but the aftereffects lingered. “The desperation (in the streets) was palpable,” says Camille. She worries about the fates of some former behavioral health patients and some homeless people who haven’t returned to the area since the demonstrations.
Fortunately, quarantine has expanded other horizons. In her downtime, Camille enjoys Zoom Zumba, a virtual dance class taught by her former primary care physician. She’ll also drop by Club Quarantine for eighties dance mixes, and walk the Van Cortland track if it’s not too crowded.
And when air travel becomes simpler, she looks forward to visiting family in Antigua. She’s already halfway there, thanks to the free airline ticket burning a hole in her scrubs pocket. She won the ticket as a JetBlue Healthcare Hero after a colleague nominated her.
Until then, she echoes her clinic team’s verdict: “The Bronx is the best!”