Scholorship-winning Lethbridge student gives his best for Chinook
Story by Sherri Gallant
LETHBRIDGE — When Richard Camacho signed up to volunteer at a Calgary hospital in 2013, he had no way of knowing it would be the launch of a life-changing journey.
Camacho’s experience in Calgary made such a positive impact on him that he immediately signed on for more volunteering at Chinook Regional Hospital (CRH) when he moved to Lethbridge to attend the University of Lethbridge.
“Being a volunteer exposes you to the realities of the healthcare system,” he says. “It’s not just like what you see on Grey’s Anatomy or any healthcare show. It’s more profound, more complex — but also more human than any of those shows portray.”
Later on, personal circumstances led Camacho to pause his neuroscience degree studies, and to re-evaluate his future plans.
“Even though I couldn’t continue with my degree, I was still a volunteer at the hospital and working with a mentor of mine, who’s great nurse all around,” he adds. “It was my mentor who motivated me to consider nursing.”
His nurse mentor also brought Camacho on as a volunteer with the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) research project in 2016. ERAS helps patients get back on their feet quicker, which shortens hospital stays and reduces surgical complications.
“After that period of research and study with ERAS, I asked my mentor if I could present it to nurses. He allowed me, providing me valuable skills to learn and develop. The skills, such as research and education, are the cornerstone and foundation of nursing. I got to be in that role for a brief moment — and experienced what it might be like to be a nursing educator — and it appealed to me.”
In 2018, Camacho successfully applied for the Friends of Chinook Regional Hospital scholarship, an annual award given to exemplary volunteers who are planning a career in healthcare. Friends of CRH runs the hospital’s gift shop and TV rental program, and channels its profits into purchasing enhancements for the hospital.
“I was very fortunate to have won. And while I was being interviewed by the Friends board, they joked with me about the possibility of me being on their board of directors. I did apply, and in the same year I started nursing school, I also started on the board with the Friends society, and later was elected chairman.”
In his volunteer chair role, Camacho worked closely with the CRH site manager to identify and fund enhancements in the hospital.
“We had a very successful year … and it wouldn’t have been possible without our exceptional Executive Director Daniel Erickson and our dedicated board of directors.”
Today, Camacho also serves as president of the University of Lethbridge Nursing Student Association, and is in his third year of studies for his Bachelor of Nursing degree. He gratefully credits his career trajectory to years of volunteering with the Friends of Chinook.
Ever-enthusiastic, Camacho has inspired several of his peers to volunteer at the hospital and to seek out leadership roles within the nursing program — so they, too, can enjoy the kinds of experiences and make the connections which have helped him to develop professionally.