Friday, June 20, 2008

5 Questions for Kim Ortiz, Nurse

5 Questions is our ongoing feature where we introduce you to the people who make Brandywine Counseling run, spotlighting a different staff member every two weeks.

Name: Kim Ortiz
Job: Nurse, Lancaster Center
Time with BCI: 2 years

1. What led you to work in addiction treatment rather than a doctor’s office or hospital?
Three experiences have prompted me to go into an addiction treatment center:

In addition to being a nurse, I am a musician also. I became acquainted with a fellow musician who started playing for one of my choirs years ago. I found out that he was an addict and learned about his cruel childhood and what triggered his drug use. We still managed to become the best of friends. On one occasion, I didn't hear from him for two days, which confirmed my suspicions that he must be using. By Monday, he came to my door, asking to take a shower. I refused to let him in my home. In fact, I packed his clothes, gave him $5 for gas, kissed him farewell, closed my door, and then slid to the floor in tears. He was as close to me as any brother could ever have been. It hurt to have to practice "tough love." But I did. The story goes on, [and] through his recovery process, we stayed in touch. It was this friend that taught me to have an open mind about people and not to be so judgmental.

Before I came to Brandywine, I worked at the Veterans’ Hospital. Many of the patients were current drug users. They were introduced to drugs while in the military, serving in various wars. While assessing some of my patients, I got to know many of them. I loved working there. To see the things they were having to struggle and deal with, it’s become a desire of mine to help people.

[Also,] I love psychiatry, getting to know people and what makes them tick. One of my dreams is to further my study so that I will better equip myself to counsel those that are in need. I play a major role in scheduling Dr. Tavani's appointments (the Psychiatrist here at Brandywine.) It's interesting to hear the experiences and challenges that our clientele have endured. The past-to-present stories of some of our clients would make the top best book seller's list and it wouldn't even be fiction! What better place to work than Brandywine, to touch these areas of interest for me?

2. The nursing staff sees our clients every day, when they come to your dispensing window. What’s your relationship like with your clients?
They feel like family to us. We get to know what's happening in their lives on a regular basis. They bring their children in, bring us pictures of their families. When a client comes to my window, if they’re having a problem with anything, I can talk to them. I think they feel comfortable at confiding in us about their lives, things that they might not tell other people here. I love talking with people and I love helping people, so I really count that as a privilege.

The thing that I value most in working here as a nurse is, that I am working with people that are the same as you and I. I believe most people have some type of addiction, whether it be food, sex, drugs, or working too much. It's what we do to try to make up for the off-balance that is reflected in our lives. I hate the stigma that's placed on [addiction]. We sometimes put people in this little box, and think that they all should be labeled as such, as an "addict." But the fact is, that these are real people, with real issues, real problems, and real concerns. If we treat them as such, I think we get back the same respect that we would expect. I wish our society would get out of the mindset that, "They are just addicts." Yuck!! No!!! A lot of them didn't ask to be in this position. If we could just be understanding about that, the world would be a much nicer place, as far as I'm concerned.

3. The BCI medical staff has been very involved in our P2R efforts to improve access to treatment. We’ve become less like a doctors’ office and more like an emergency room, with all walk-in intakes, no appointments. Do you think those changes have helped the clients?
I do. I think that it makes it easy. I can get a call on the phone today from someone asking, “How do I get into this program?" And I can say, "We're open every day of the week. Be here by 5:00 in the morning, Monday through Friday, first come, first served." If they want treatment right away, they know that we're available, we're flexible, and all they have to do is get here. Once they get in here, we take their names, and, 1-2-3-4-5-6! We take six people, Monday through Wednesdays, and two clients on Thursdays and Fridays. As long as they're willing to get here by 5:00 A.M., their chances of being seen are really good.

4. What advice do you have for someone who would like to do the job you do?
My advice would be to go in with an open mind, and to not have that judgmental stigma of people that are addicted to a substance. If they can block that out of their mind and realize with every client, there is a story. There's background history. And God knows, that if we read all of the background history that Dr. Tavani compiles on each client that she sees, some of our stigmas would definitely change. In many instances, it may not have been that client's fault that propelled them into substance abuse. What caused that client to use? Were they born addicted with an addicted parent to govern them?

If we could just get that stigma out, I mean, throw it out the window, and realize, these are people, just like those coming out of the hospital with physical ailments. Our clients have major physical impairments going on, maybe stemming from the experiences that have happened in their lives. Whether it was just choosing the wrong friends and someone starting them on the drug-use trail, as innocent as that may sound, now they're stuck with a habit that they wish they had never started. In all of this, remember that, many of our clients are here because they want help desperately. Do everything that you can to give them that help without enabling them.

5. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
There are several rewarding aspects of my job.

[First,] being able to run to emergencies. Just recently, we had somebody who had a seizure, and he fell out in the waiting room, and hit his head, and we had to call 911. I like trauma type settings, so when that kind of thing happens, it’s an adrenaline rusher for me. Being able to get that person revived, and get them back conscious. That’s firsthand nursing experience right there.

When a client comes to my window and tells me that they're going to a job interview, and they're afraid to reveal to the employer that they are on methadone, I feel their fear. I enjoy encouraging them, “Think positive! Hold your head up, and smile, smile, smile!” Reminding them that they are doing this for themselves, and they are doing all within their power to heal themselves, so they can do better in their lives. This is all that any of us want in our lives ... to do better. “So, go get that job! You're gonna do this for you!" Then, it really makes my day when they come back to report that they did indeed get the job, and thank me for being so supportive. Hallelujah!!!

Lastly, when a client finally gets to zero milligrams of methadone. It's a day of rejoicing!!! They've done their part in their treatment, and are finally able to walk away from here without any withdrawal symptoms. To God be the Glory!!!!


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I really enjoy her words of dedication!And her caring words for our clients. we need more co-workers like Kim God Bless♥