Meet Michelle Camarena

August 12, 2014

Michelle Camarena is Assistant Director of Nursing for Campus Health.

As a nurse consultant, Michelle is a leader within Campus Health. In addition to the regular duties of a staff nurse, she has her own patient schedule, co-chairs the infection control committee for Campus Health, acts as a liaison to UNC epidemiology and serves on the nurse leadership team. She supervises a staff of 6 medical and nursing assistants and works with a team of 12 doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. She also serves on multiple committees at Campus Health, charged with reviewing and improving services. In other words, she’s invaluable.

Career Path

Michelle was trained at East Carolina University. She received her first bachelor’s degree in Spanish in 1993, but knew she would be returning for more education. Michelle felt familiar with nursing, as her mother was a nurse, and that, in part, is why she returned to ECU for a second bachelor’s degree – this time, in nursing. Following graduation in 1997, she worked in primary care at the ECU School of Medicine. When the opportunity presented itself to work at ECU’s Student Health center in 1998, Michelle jumped at the chance and has remained in college health since. She received her Master of Nursing degree from ECU in 2008.

College Health Appeal

UNC’s Campus Health became Michelle’s professional home in 2005. For Michelle, working in college health is fun and provides a variety of health issues to work with. She calls her work, “an opportunity to teach students how to care for themselves and alleviate anxieties about health, as well as how to access care." Students comment how comfortable they are with Michelle because she speaks to them on their terms. “To them, I’m Michelle, the nurse. They can ask me anything,” Michelle said.

College health does have its challenges. According to Michelle, “it can be chaotic. The volume can be overwhelming at times.” As a nurse consultant, it is Michelle’s job to help patients who need to be seen fit into already over-filled schedules. She at times attempts to bring a patient in with mere moments of notice, which can be challenging.  Yet her overall perspective on the work is positive. “It’s an amazing atmosphere. I couldn’t ask for a better job as a nurse,” Michelle said.

Career Accomplishments and Goals

In terms of successes at Campus Health, Michelle has many. “Certainly co-chairing the infection control committee has been an accomplishment…I’m proud that folks believe enough in my leadership to do this.” She adds that infection control is “an area of nursing that I find important, interesting and applicable to what we do.” In the future, Michelle hopes to seek certification in ambulatory nursing. The national certification covers the wide variety of health issues seen in an outpatient setting such as Campus Health and shows an additional level of nursing expertise.

Wound care is one area that Michelle particularly enjoys due to the relationship she is able to build with patients. “We sometimes see a laceration, abrasion or abscess that needs follow up on a fairly regular basis – even daily – and this happens until the wound heals,” she noted. “It’s a unique thing that we can bring patients back so often to care for their wounds.” In most clinic settings, a daily visit for the weeks or months until a wound is healed would be not only inconvenient but expensive. Since Campus Health is located where students live and learn, these patients can receive a high level of care without significant impact to their time. Often, the only charge is for dressing supplies.

Health Advice

When asked to give students health advice, Michelle responded “the first thing that pops into my mind is actually stress reduction…it is difficult to manage the many things that can impact health.” She went on to discuss the various areas students are juggling – from communication with professors to navigating the services on campus to negotiating the many demands on their time. “If students can balance all of these, it will ultimately positively impact their health,” Michelle noted.  

Outside Interests

Michelle’s areas of interest at times reflect those of her patients. The latest book she enjoyed was “This is Where I Leave You” by Jonathan Tropper. “It was just hilarious," she laughed. Her traveling bug began in college when she spent a summer in Costa Rica as part of her Spanish degree, helping her understand the challenges of studying abroad. She also had some interesting jobs in college - working for American Airlines (“It was interesting to be a ticket agent, work security and flag-in airplanes at a small airport,” she said) and interning at Disney. All of these experiences help her relate to her patients, as she understands many of the experiences they may go through during their time at UNC.

Come See for Yourself

Michelle can be found in the primary care clinics at Campus Health on the first floor.

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