Caring is in all of us, and nurses truly embody that spirit. Independence Blue Cross received nearly 700 submissions for its Celebrate Caring campaign. We are honored to share the stories of our top ten finalists, including Kate Gleason-Bachman, a nurse at Pathways to Housing PA.
A Team Devoted Exclusively to Opioid Use Disorder
Pathways to Housing PA (Pathways) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower people with disabilities to improve their housing stability, achieve better health, and reclaim their lives. In the fall of 2016, Pathways formed a team devoted exclusively to opioid use disorder, which Kate joined in the spring of 2017.
“In the beginning, our challenges were trying to figure out what our clients’ needs were. We’re a harm-reduction program. We work to improve people’s safety, and we work with them on their goals for living.” Essentially, Kate notes, it amounts to learning how to help those who are addicted to opioids, because many clients are when they first seek help from Pathways.
Re-building Trust in the Health Care System
Many of the people Kate sees haven’t been to a health care provider or received services in a long time. So, Kate helps reintegrate them back into the health care system.
“Many of our clients have been stigmatized both in the ER and in the primary care setting,” she explains. “I help our clients rebuild trust in the health care system by facilitating a positive experience. I set them up with appointments and go to appointments with them. We have a collaboration with the Steven Klein Wellness Center, so once our clients are more stable and ready to address their health care needs, we can introduce them to primary health care services.”
The Stories that Make it All Worthwhile
Kate spends a lot of time in the community, acting on referrals, making home visits, advocating for hospitalized patients, and visiting homeless individuals in an effort to get them into services. When Kate is out in the community, she often accompanies her colleague Joe Quinn, a certified peer specialist who is trained in helping individuals struggling with addiction.
Kate and Joe used to visit a man who panhandled in Center City. They’d visit him several times a week, and every time they’d see him, they’d have the same conversation. The man had several medical issues and wanted to enter recovery, but had a tough time starting the process.
Although many people would say he was a lost cause, Kate has a philosophy of not giving up on people. She also never holds anything against anyone.
“You can tell me you’re going to be somewhere, and then you don’t show up. That’s ok. The next time I see you, we just keep on moving forward. Joe and I must have tried to meet this man 20 times. One day, he finally called and said, ‘Today’s the day, I’m ready.’ He entered in-patient rehab and started methadone. He’s been in recovery for over a year now.”
Fighting Stigma Every Day
Every day Kate sees the stigma her clients face in health care settings. That’s why she works to address the stigma of addiction through advocacy and education. One of the challenges she faces is the many preconceived notions about what addiction means and looks like. When Kate hears something inaccurate or insensitive, she’ll step in to correct a misconception and advocate for her client. For example, she’ll explain the timing of withdrawal and what her client is feeling.
“I know it can be difficult to work with people who are dependent on opioids. Withdrawal isn’t pleasant. It’s a tough place for health care providers as well, so I set expectations of the withdrawal process.”
A True Calling
Although Kate admits that sometimes her job is like a wild roller coaster, she knows she’s where she’s meant to be. “I found my people. I love this, this is what I want to be doing.”