The Medicine Hat Recovery Centre, a rehabilitation facility, offers an approach to addiction treatment and recovery largely shaped by the nursing expertise and leadership of two RNs. As plans for the new facility, which opened in April 2016, began to take shape, Debbie Vass and Rita Duren worked to ensure patients would receive the best possible chance of success in their recovery journey.
Rita and Debbie say their nursing experience is vital for creating treatment approaches that meet the needs of addictions clients.
“We put our registered nursing skills and competencies to work for our clients,” says Rita. “From the start, Debbie and I recognized we had this common understanding of what needed to be done and felt we had enough knowledge and skills to move the project forward.”
“We pulled the project together using the nursing process – assessment, planning, implementing and then evaluating and continually circulating that back again,” says Rita. “Our nursing experience and expertise prepared us for supporting the Centre.”
Debbie adds that, “We were up for the challenge because of the positive impact the Centre was to have on our clients, their families and the entire community.”
“The facility was originally planned to be a social detox service, not a medically supervised service site,” says Debbie. “As RNs, we put our assessment skills to work and determined the population coming to the centre would require medically-supported addictions care.”
With that understanding, Rita and Debbie began looking for a service-delivery model that would better support client medical needs during substance withdrawals, and began advocating for a collaborative care model with medical support.
When the 15,000-square-foot building opened in April 2016 with six detox beds and 12 residential beds, the collaborative, medically-supported model was solidly in place.
“We have detox and residential beds in the same building,” describes Debbie. “Having them together provides greater opportunities to build connections for ongoing continuity of care.”
The building itself is beautiful.
“We wanted to create an environment that is supportive, therapeutic and less institutional,” says Rita. “The open-concept design creates a welcoming, engaging environment that puts people at ease.”
“We decided early in the process to move into harm-reduction strategies and support addiction as a chronic disease process,” says Debbie.
Rita and Debbie both acknowledge this represents a philosophical shift from what many people believe about addiction care.
“It’s our job to build services that focus on the clients and
families involved,” says Rita.
So far, it’s an approach that seems to be working. Patients regularly reach out to them when they feel they are at risk, because they know they are always welcome.
“Clients trust us, and know we’ll do whatever we can to help, without judgment,” says Debbie.
For Rita, the reaction of patients, their families and the community have been especially rewarding.
“You know how you have those defining moments, when you feel value in what you’re doing?” says Rita. “A client returned specifically to share their recovery story and told us ‘I want to thank your team for not giving up on me. This was not my first time coming here but it is the time I got it right. Some of us take longer, but we’ll get there.’”
“It was such a powerful thing to hear,” says Rita. “Because I believe that when it comes down to it, we’re in the hope business. And sometimes hope is all people have to hold on to.”
By Crystal Komanchuk, Communications Coordinator