By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
DHM hires new nurse navigator
OatesDSC 0077a
DHM’s Breast Imaging Department staffers surround their new nurse navigator Debbie Oates, center, making up a team of seven serving the women of the community. In the front row, from left, Krissy Vickerman, Oates, Kris Gesler. Back row, Sheila Rogers, Judy Irons, Debbie Peters and Jennifer Caldwell. - photo by GLENN KAHL
It takes a special person to serve women of the community in breast health – meeting their medical needs as well as being ultra sensitive to their fears and anxieties as they face biopsies and possible surgery in a search for cancer.

The nurse navigator in Doctors Hospital of Manteca is there in the award winning Breast Imaging Department ready to take patients by the hand and guide them through the process and soften their anxieties.

Debbie Oates recently joined the staff filling the vacancy of RN Debbie Aventi who has transferred to a Sonora medical facility to be closer to her home and family.  It was with mixed emotions that Aventi left Doctors’ where she had led the department to national honors and had many doors open up to her.

Oates, originally from New York, is certified in three nursing oncology disciplines, having practiced in Texas, Arizona and Hawaii in addition to New York.

She said she has been in awe by how nicely she has been welcomed by everyone at Doctors since she arrived seeing numerous patients shortly after taking on her duties.

“Oh, my goodness, people are so nice here,” she said.

Asked why she went into nursing some three generations ago, Debbie said her major was originally that of a medical secretary.  She said, once in college, she soon realized her passion was for a nursing career – “I didn’t think I could be a nurse.”

Even as a youngster her sensitivity for the living was paramount. It was exemplified when she saw a mouse caught in a trap at her home.  She remembers trying to reverse the fate of the little varmint, taking it out of the trap and trying to revive it, but to no avail.

“I put this little mouse in a box and gave it a funeral.  I had tried to see if I could fix it at the age of eight or nine,” she said.  “I’ve known for a long time that I just like to help people.”

Debbie grew up in Upper State New York  outside of Rochester.  She has three sisters.  She said she grew up in a church family as her dad, Albert, was a minister and one brother has also taken up the cloth as his vocation.  Her other sister is a retired administrator from General Motors.

She said she was adopted into the family by her aunt and uncle when she was eight years old.   Her stepmother Celia played an important part in helping to build her character during her formative years, she added.  Her late grandmother, Leonore Milroy, was also a constant in her life.      

“She, too, would have been a nurse if she hadn’t had seven children to raise.  She told me she would have liked to be a nurse and she sure was proud of me when I became a nurse,” she said.  

In addition to her grandmother helping to set the fabric, the foundation  of her character, she described her mother as “a real giver” who gives of herself to people who don’t have a place to live – taking them in – not just family, but everybody.

“My mother,  who raised me, probably had the most influence on my life,” Debbie said. “I’m so grateful that she took me – we are really close, still.  It really is all about family, isn’t it?” she asked.

Back three generations Debbie said women weren’t given much confidence especially when you grew up within a church as they are today.  She first entered a community college in Rochester, NY, and went on to get a bachelors degree and a masters at the University of Rochester – living there until she was about to turn 40.

 “I left Rochester in 1977 to move out to Arizona because my husband retired and we wanted to move there so he could play golf.  So we moved to Arizona and unfortunately he had kidney cancer and he died nine years ago.   We were married 25 years,” she noted.

The couple had a son, Ernie, 33 who now lives in Costa Mesa, CA, working as the director of biomedical engineering at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach.

The University of Rochester was her first nursing assignment as a registered nurse in the Bone Marrow Transplant specialty for eight year tenure.

Debbie then moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, working at Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, until her husband died and she didn’t work for a couple years, she recalled.

“Then I moved to Texas, because my son was living in Texas.  He had been in the Army and when he got out he settled in Texas.  I went to Texas to be close to him and went to work for M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Huston – biggest cancer center in the world – working there in Bone Marrow Transplant again,” she said.

She added that the Anderson Cancer Center is “number one” in the United States for care.

Debbie has done some other assignments other than nursing, working as a foundation director for a year in Huston.  “I’ve done a mix of administrative and as a practitioner in RN, but it’s all been in Oncology.  I’ve not done anything but Oncology,” she added.  “So that gives me 27 years of Oncology experience.”

After her husband’s death she took a contract job in Hawaii as a travel nurse.  “So I moved around a lot, just trying to search out what I wanted to do,” she said.  “Since my husband died I have really been wrapped up in putting my life around my patients.  It’s been my focus in trying to change the lives of others for the better in some way.”

She said now she has moved to “Mayberry,” living in Ripon.  Debbie said she absolutely loves the small community she has found not too far from her work at Doctors.  She said she takes her dog “Buster” for a walk almost every day.

Oates admits her pooch is pampered, going to day care every day and eating organic dog food – he has a good life.

What she likes to do in her off hours with her lab is “an exploring kind of walk” and she also likes to hike – anything out doors she said she loves.  

“Vacation to me is outdoors – it’s in the country – it’s in nature, not Disneyworld – enjoying being by myself when I’m not at work,” she said.