Welcome to One Team, a series of Q&As shining a light on outstanding members of Citizen Advocates’ 800-strong workforce that stretches from Lake Champlain to Lake Ontario.
Registered nurse Kirsti Davis knew her desired career path at a young age. “When my Kindergarten teacher asked us to draw what we wanted to be when we grew up, I drew a nurse,” she said. She’s now 23 years into the profession and managing the Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program at Citizen Advocates’ Ogdensburg Behavioral Health Urgent Care Center (BHUC).
What led you to behavioral health nursing?
Davis: My first ten years as a nurse were in surgical nursing, which gave me a good foundation and knowledge base. But I discovered along the way that it doesn’t matter what specialty you’re working in, you’re always dealing with clients with mental health and addiction struggles.
In nursing school, behavioral health was my least favorite subject. It was intimidating. But as I became a more experienced nurse, I developed the patience to give quality care to those clients. I worked as an addiction and detox nurse then at the state psychiatric hospital for five and a half years before coming to Citizen Advocates.
How did you first hear about Citizen Advocates and the Ogdensburg BHUC?
Davis: A former coworker recruited me. I interviewed and was sold on the purpose. The reason I became a nurse is to make a difference in people’s lives. That’s what we do here every day.
What is your team like at the Ogdensburg BHUC?
Davis: We all have value regardless of job title. Every person contributes to the environment which helps us better care for our clients.
For the layperson, what is Medication Assisted Treatment?
Davis: Clients come on a weekly basis to meet with a nurse, get tested to monitor for any drug use and receive replacement drugs for opiate addiction. They also meet with a CASAC [Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor] for substance use counseling and can join outpatient groups to learn more about addiction and how to stay on the right path.
I enjoy MAT because it helps me with my own well-being. It lets me use my knowledge and experience to help folks. Sometimes, clients have a hard time seeing me as someone who is in recovery myself, but I try to show them I’m not just reading from a book. I understand what they’re talking about.
With MAT, I see the same people week to week and see their progression. I get to be a witness to their recovery. Sometimes progress is simply if someone doesn’t use a drug for just a week. That makes a difference. One client said to me “I didn’t use this week because of something you said to me last week.” That’s huge.
Are there any other impactful stories from your time at the Ogdensburg BHUC you can share?
Davis: When I first started here, I had a client who was knocking on death’s door. She literally almost died. Now she’s been clean and sober for six months. It’s incredible to see her progress and the changes in her physical appearance and mental state. It’s just amazing.
Recently, we had another client who put in an application to work here because he said this place “saved his life.” The good things, the positive things, they’re everywhere.
Burnout affects many nurses, particularly during and after the pandemic. What helps you get through those tough times?
Davis: I’ve shed a lot of tears, that’s for sure. [She chuckles.] Self-care and reflection are big. You have to make time for yourself to do the things that you enjoy.
I also have coworkers I can go to when I need to get something off my chest. That makes a huge difference. Sometimes you just need someone to listen to you. Then you can pick yourself up and go on. At the BHUC, we’re there for each other.
What do you do for fun outside of work?
Davis: I’m writing a book, a psychological thriller that hopefully will be published someday. I like to read, do crafts, go on trips. I recently went to Salem, Massachusetts with my daughter. I love listening to music and taking care of my dogs.
Where do you see the Ogdensburg BHUC in five years?
Davis: Hopefully we’re even bigger and better. We’ve had tremendous growth since opening last year. I hope to see more of that going forward.
If you’re interested in learning more about a career at Citizen Advocates, visit citizenadvocates.net/careers.