While most of his buddies chose the sciences and business as their fields of study after graduating from high school, Chris Camilleri was unsure what he wanted to do.
“Those things just didn’t appeal to me and I wasn’t interested in going that route,” he said, during National Nurses Week (May 8 to 14).
When his father and brother tried to persuade him to follow them in the trades, he resisted.
“I let them know that wasn’t for me,” Camilleri pointed out.
While reading a Humber College catalogue, their nursing program caught his attention.
“I like helping people and making a difference, so I knew right away this would be the perfect fit,” he said. “I went to the information session and was very impressed.”
He is one of two Toronto Police Service nurses available to uniform and civilian members.
Camilleri joined the organization a year ago after serving as an occupational health nurse in Hamilton.
“I like this job because every day here is different,” he said. “We get calls from members looking to return to work and others who want to come in and see us about something they think we could help them with. It’s normally general questions about their health. For those coming back after an injury or illness, we are here to help them transition back into their original roles. We want them to have fun at their jobs.”
Police officers are often confronted with emotionally-charged situations and Camilleri understands that.
“That’s why it's important for me to get where they are coming from when they come to see me about a situation,” he said.
British-born Sandy Foster migrated to Montreal in 1975 to pursue a nursing career after being inspired by her grandmother, who was a health care worker.
“I was going to university to do a Bachelor of Science in Economics and I already had my place secured,” she said. “Then, I just woke up one morning and decided I wasn’t going to do that anymore.”
Taking early retirement from St. Joseph’s Health Centre after 26 years, Foster was introduced to Toronto Police Service through a friend.
“She told me they were looking for a nurse to do the long-term sick benefits and I applied and was successful,” recalled Foster. “Because it was a part-time position, it worked well for me as I was also helping to set up the emergency department at the new Humber River Hospital.”
Foster said she relishes working with Service members.
“We are here to support them in whatever way we can, including ensuring that those with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) claims get the adequate support they require,” she said. “The police are out there making sure that we are safe, so our role is to make sure they are fit and healthy to do their job.”
“They are really important in the management of mostly non-occupational injuries and illnesses that Service members experience,” he said. “They provide a number of roles such as support for our doctors during appointments, in terms of taking notes and collecting information. They also support our members by providing information about Service procedures, about the doctors’ recommendations and setting up return-to-work plans and identifying limitations or accommodations needs that members may have. They also ensure that members’ illnesses and injuries are managed medically in an efficient manner.”
Joanne Gooding, a senior administrator, said the nurses are a critical resource.
“They work on assessing members’ fitness for duty,” she said. “They are the first level of contact, for the most part, for ill or injured members. We are not a walk-in clinic, but they can come to our nurses who will test their blood pressure and advise them if they need to go to a hospital.”