Nursing Week 2024: Interview with Jennifer Pinkerton

Nursing Week 2024: Interview with Jennifer Pinkerton

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During National Nursing Week, we’re celebrating the incredible nurses who play a pivotal role in the recovery process for patients and clients in our care. We spoke with Jennifer Pinkerton to learn more about her experiences, challenges, and the profound impact of her work.

Happy Nursing Week Jessica Pinkerton

1. Why did you become a nurse, and what drove you to specialize in addictions care?

In my teenage years I knew I wanted to do something to help people and make the world a better place. For years I couldn’t decide between teaching and nursing, but in the end nursing won. Im sure teaching is rewarding, but helping someone when they are hurt, broken or ill is where I was meant to be. I worked in long term care for years and truly did enjoy it. I knew I was helping and bringing smiles and kind words to many but knew that I could do more. I happened to see a job posting for an OATC clinic in my area and thought, why not!? Maybe this is how I am meant to help. I honestly didn’t know much about OATC at the time, so I started reading and researching. After my first week in training I knew I loved the job and quickly became very passionate about the work we do. After seeing my first patient turn their life around and knowing that I was a part of that journey I was 100% positive that I had found my place in the world of nursing!

2. Can you share a memory from your time working at one of our treatment centres, in which you were able to make a real difference in a patient/client’s recovery?

One of my favourite recovery stories is that of a young man who was in a really terrible living situation when he realized how badly he needed help. He called his mother for help and she reached out to OATC. The day he came into the clinic he was in such bad withdrawal he could barely walk. We got him set up with a doctor immediately and got him started on our program right away. Within a year this young man was no longer using illegal substances, had his children back, and was working. His strength and determination, along side the care, compassion, encouragement and acceptance of the clinic staff show you that no hurdle is too big when you have the right support system. Anything is possible!

3. What do you find to be the most challenging and rewarding aspects of working in addiction treatment? What keeps you motivated through the challenges?

It’s difficult to see people doing well, then fall off program. We develop such a close therapeutic relationship with our patients. Life is hard, and even more so for people living with addiction. What keeps me motivated is that no matter how hard life gets, these people get up and came back. That determination to “do better” reminds me of my mission in life, and how fortunate I am to be able help. Perspective is the most rewarding part of my job.

The most challenging part of working at OATC is watching someone struggling and trying so hard and seeing the stigma that some people hold against them without even considering that everyone has their own story. Talking to my patients and having them tell me about their week, the ups and the downs, how they coped with these events, to know that I will listen without judgement and offer words of encouragement and resources to help. That’s what keeps me motivated. 

4. What is your approach to building strong relationships with people in your care, and why is it so important to do so?

In this line of work strong relationships are so important because that connection is a huge part of our patients journey to becoming healthy. You can offer all the medication in the world but people need relationships and communication to truly heal. I treat all of our patients with respect and kindness and ensure that they know the same is expected from them. We always offer encouragement and acceptance with no judgement. The worst thing you can do to someone who is already struggling is to make them feel judged. We have to remember that we are all made as equals but one moment can change the direction of our life in the blink of an eye.

5. Why should nurses choose to work in addictions care? What is your favourite part of the job?

I think the word “addict” and the stigma associated with that word deters a lot of nurses from pursing options in addiction medicine. 

There are so many wonderful reasons to work in addiction medicine.

Nurses who want to feel good about what they do every day, enjoy the connection they build with their clients and want a stable, family friendly career should consider OATC as an option. Our teams are carefully selected to work well together, function as a team and provide the best service we can for our patients. A career in addiction medicine is beyond rewarding.

Thank you, Jennifer, for everything you do to support our patients in recovery. Happy National Nursing Week!