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‘An amazing time’ for nurses to work in alcohol and other drugs

‘An amazing time’ for nurses to work in alcohol and other drugs

CEO of the Self-Help Addiction Resource Centre, Heather Pickard

It is an ‘amazing time’ for nurses to be entering the alcohol and other drugs sector, the CEO of the Self-Help Addiction Resource Centre told ANMF members at the inaugural ‘Alcohol and other drugs information seminar for nurses and midwives’.

Heather Pickard said ANMF’s strong advocacy for AOD workforce development and Andrews Government reforms had led to a new clear structure for the sector.

Ms Pickard said the Self-Help Addiction Resource Centre (SHARC) provided 68 beds for addicts at various stages of recovery, state-wide family services and AOD workforce capacity-building. SHARC also runs the only statewide advocacy peak organization for consumers and family members.

Ms Pickard said the government’s reforms of the sector had included funding for work with diverse communities.

‘For the first time in my (24 year) history of working in drug and alcohol I’m seeing questions being asked of those communities instead of bringing in a sterile intervention for diverse communities,’ she said.

Ms Pickard provided a summary of her career, which has included working in home-based and residential withdrawal, undertaking a Graduate Diploma in Addiction Studies, establishing a hospital liaison team and setting up a primary healthcare clinic for drug users.

Ms Pickard said that ‘witnessing the commitment of many clients to make change’ was one of the positive experiences about working as the nurse unit manager in a residential withdrawal facility.

‘To leave your world for 10 days, to leave your kids if you’ve got kids, and your dog – your world – to go into a drug withdrawal unit is a fairly big start of a process of commitment…and I love being in a change wave,’ she said.

Ms Pickard managed Monash Health’s suite of withdrawal services and established the hospital liaison team to assist clinicians with the drug and alcohol issues of patients presenting with medical conditions.

She said addiction disorder was a mixture of science and mystery – it could be hard to predict a client’s chances of recovery.

‘Sometimes science can’t give us an answer for why people do what they do when all common sense says it’s crazy,’ she said. ‘You can’t actually do something to a person to make them change. You offer opportunities for a person or family to go through a process which brings them to a point where they decide to make change.’

Ms Pickard recalled a client who had undertaken 14 withdrawals and finally stopped his drug use on the 15th attempt. He went on to become a staff member sharing his lived experience of addiction.

In 2006 Ms Pickard became the founding CEO of the Nursing & Midwifery Health Program Victoria, which specializes in providing support and counselling to nurses and midwives with substance use issues, as well as support for issues with mental health and family violence.

The ‘Alcohol and other drugs information seminar for nurses and midwives’ was funded by the Andrews Government and presented by ANMF (Vic Branch) in partnership with Turning Point.