As we all know, the nation is suffering a staggering opioid epidemic. What some may not know is that the U.S. is also facing a shortage of registered nurses (RNs). A sharp rise in the need for health care services compounded by the retirements of Baby Boomers, struggling nursing schools and health care reform have resulted in a need for an estimated 649,100 new nurses in the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Projections 2014-2024.
The same report also made note of the great opportunity this presents: Registered nursing is listed among the top occupations in terms of job growth through 2024. Those passionate about making a difference and improving lives can help address the nursing shortage, make improvements to the health care system, and tackle the addiction crisis.
Lorna Doane, a nurse on the front lines at Spectrum Health Systems’ detoxification programs, talked with us today about why she chose to enter the addiction field versus assuming a more traditional nursing role.
Why did you get into nursing?
I got into nursing many years ago because I like people, and am very interested in what makes them work – their physical and mental health. I am passionate about making people happy, improving their health outcomes and making sure they are comfortable.
What’s your career journey been?
I am a registered nurse and have worked in almost all facets of health care over the years, except pediatrics. I first worked in medical/surgical nursing and home care, while working part-time or volunteering on the side to learn and help as much as I could. Because of this experience, I am truly able to treat the entire patient.
That is also how I fell into the addiction industry. For about three years, I volunteered at Spectrum’s peer recovery center in Marlborough. I donated old clothing, housewares and more to help clients get back on their feet. I held office hours during the week where I took blood pressures and answered medical questions.
The employees and clients in Marlborough encouraged me to pursue addiction treatment full-time – my compassionate nature allowed me to connect with people who were struggling and help them get started on the road to recovery.
Now that I am an official employee at Spectrum, I still make sure to get out to the peer recovery center to volunteer once a week. It’s an important part of my life – and I am dedicated to helping fight addiction in all ways.
We have such an epidemic going on right now, and it’s hitting people at a very vulnerable age (between 19-25). Being on the other side of youth, I can provide another perspective and remind clients of all that they have to look forward to, and what they should be focused on – the people, places and things that make their life worth living. I am caring, attentive and supportive, and it seems to make a true difference.
What does your day to day look like?
On a typical day, I work alongside my colleagues to keep clients healthy and operations running smoothly. This starts with daily shift-to-shift reporting, following up on open items – such as pharmacy orders, phone calls to other facilities for medical backgrounds, etc. – and prioritizing orders based on acute needs.
Every day at 10am, 2pm and 7pm, we contact our physician to provide status updates on clients’ conditions and review new client histories (what substances they use, how long they’ve used them, when they’ve last used them, etc.).
We continuously perform checks on our clients to ensure they are reacting well to the detoxification process and new medications, and there are no other causes for concern such as wounds, infections or mental health issues.
We also work hard each day to get our clients ready for the next step in recovery: inpatient treatment. We determine whether the person has been stabilized through the detoxification process, and if they are ready to step down to a lower level of care. If they are, we work closely with doctors and case managers to get them ready.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Working as a team with my colleagues to help people is most rewarding to me. At Spectrum, management does a fantastic job of organizing staff. We all have varying life experiences and skillsets, and we come together to make a strong impact on our clients. Also, the organization doesn’t stay stagnant – it is dedicated to trying better ways of doing things and welcomes the suggestions of staff on the ground.
Of course, knowing that I’ve helped even one person get their life back on track is the cherry on top. I’ve been with Spectrum for two-and-a-half years now, and recently had a former client recognize me on the street. I could hardly recognize him in return, as he looked so happy and healthy. He has an apartment, girlfriend, kids and a job now – and has been sober for over a year. That’s what it’s all about.
Interested in the addiction field? Check out our employment openings here and reach out with any questions.