When you’ve kept critically ill patients alive while soaring 35,000 feet above the nearest hospital, there are few things in life that will rattle you.
Roseanna Camacho, Bethel’s newest School Board Member, has done just that. Camacho is now a nurse at a government hospital, but prior to that she spent time as the nurse manager at an Intensive Care Unit in Guam, a small United States territory in the western Pacific Ocean where Camacho was born and raised.
Because Guam isn’t equipped to handle certain surgeries and medical emergencies, some patients have to be flown to foreign hospitals for treatment. As a senior ICU nurse, it was Camacho’s job to accompany seriously sick or injured patients during those flights, which were often on commercial airlines full of passengers.
“It’s really nerve-racking,” Camacho said. “You have to have good skills to do it and you have to be confident in your ability.”
The experience taught her to remain calm in chaotic times and to trust her training and intuition.
While it certainly won’t be as high stakes as her time in the ICU, Camacho’s newest position as a Bethel School Board member will require her to use some of those same skills.
Camacho’s adult life of medicine and public service couldn’t be further from her childhood in Guam.
“Life was so simple,” she said. “I grew up on a ranch. We had pigs and chickens. My dad was a deep-sea fisherman, so he would go trolling and catch these big marlins and yellowfins and barracudas and sell them to the hotels. We basically lived off the land and the things we caught. We didn’t even have a refrigerator.”
After graduating high school, Camacho moved to Pierce County to attend Pacific Lutheran University. She earned a degree in psychology, and later a master’s degree in business, but she always knew she had a calling to help people in need.
“I wanted to do something substantial, where I could actually help other people,” she said.
That idea led her to explore a career in the medical field. She went back to school once again to become a nurse. Her first job was in a busy Intensive Care Unit, where she was immediately dealing with life-or-death situations.
To say it was an intimidating introduction to the profession would be an understatement.
“I was so scared!” Camacho said. “I’m Catholic, so I would do my prayers before walking into the building: Please help me be a safe and prudent nurse and let me do the best that I can.”
It took her a full year in the ICU to feel completely comfortable and confident, but everything eventually clicked and she began to realize that nursing was in her blood.
“If I saw an elderly man, I’d think, ‘I’m going to take care of this man as if he was my father,’” she said. “I would see these 16–17 year olds coming in with traumatic injuries and I would think, ‘What if that was my son or my nephew?’ My outlook is different when it comes to taking care of patients. It’s not just a job. I really feel so much emotion for them and really empathize with them.”
In addition to her nursing career, Camacho is also mom to five children, all of whom are either in or have gone through the Bethel School District.
When you have children with different needs and skills, you quickly learn what equity means in a school setting. Each child — even those raised in the same household —requires personalized attention. When Camacho’s oldest daughter started at Centennial Elementary, she struggled in several areas and needed tutoring.
“She was a smart girl, but she just needed that extra focus,” Camacho said.
The tutoring worked, and the little girl who needed extra help went on to become Graham-Kapowsin’s freshman and sophomore class president and is now a mechanical engineer.
“If you ask her, she’ll tell you she learned everything she knows from the Bethel School District,” Camacho said.
Camacho’s second daughter needed no help, but she did take advantage of special programs that allowed her to use her full potential. She was in the Highly Capable program throughout her Bethel career before earning a degree from the University of Washington in Seattle. She’s currently working on a masters degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology at Seattle Pacific University.
Daughter number three spent several years in the district’s Learning Assistance Program. The extra help put her on the right path, and she went on to enroll in the Running Start program and graduate in the top 20 in her class at Bethel High School. She’s now in a pre-med program at the University of Washington.
Camacho’s fourth daughter was valedictorian of her graduating class at Bethel High School and now attends the University of Washington, where she plans on studying engineering.
Camacho’s youngest child is preparing to start first grade next year, and he’s already tested into the district’s Highly Capable program at Centennial Elementary School.
It was that first-hand experience of what was working and what needed more attention in the school district that led Camacho to join the school board. She knows shaping Bethel’s future is a big job, but she believes her background and experiences will allow her to thrive in the position.
“The health care system, like the school system, is highly federally regulated,” she said. “You have people come in that check on your progress and you have to have quantitative and qualitative measures every year that show where you are.”
Camacho believes the district is heading in the right direction, but she says more can always be done to make children safer, healthier and more academically prepared in school. She’s especially interested in mental health, bullying, and school security.
She also plans on being active in the community so she can connect with Bethel families.
“I want to hear what people are concerned about,” she said. “We can all live in the same district, yet have drastically different experiences.”