This profile of Nancy Chow, Clinical Nurse Leader at the Rapid Access Addiction Clinic, is Part 2 in a 5-part series on this innovative clinic and a group of its staff members.
When asked what motivated her to enter the field of addiction medicine, Nancy Chow’s answer is two-pronged.
The first answer is what one might expect, as Nancy speaks to the gratification of helping a population that is marginalized and vulnerable, of helping to ensure there is an equity of care that is accessible and patient-centered.
Her second answer speaks to that which often draws people to fields such as science and medicine—the sense of discovery.
“Substance use medicine is now where HIV was 20 years ago,” says Nancy. “This is no longer about just a certain group of people, it’s much larger than that. So we can feel we are on the brink of change, scientifically and culturally. We can feel we’re at the beginning of something and that’s intriguing and exciting.”
Nancy says the RAAC is breaking what has been a dangerous and sometimes deadly cycle, where people were coming to Emergency, or being admitted to hospital with complex substance use issues, but would then be discharged and—where would they go?
“Unless they had support systems in place,” says Nancy, “they would fall through the cracks. They would be admitted to Emergency again. And the cycle would continue, sometimes with tragic results.”
For the Addiction Medicine Consult Team at St. Paul’s, which is a group that provides inpatient care for substance use patients and first tabled the concept of the RAAC, this was a big motivating factor in starting an outpatient clinic that is embedded in an acute care facility, which is what the RAAC is.
“The need was there immediately,” says Nancy. “Initially, we only took referrals from Emergency and from the Addiction Medicine Consult Team, but by our second month we opened up to everybody because we were flooded with calls.”
The calls were often intense. ‘I’m on a wait list but I can’t wait,’ and, ‘I have nowhere to go.’
“These were people that wanted help. They were asking for help. Now with the RAAC we are able to treat these people right away—and any of the barriers that may have got in their way before have been removed.”
With much room (and need) to grow this vital and already impactful program, friends of St. Paul’s Foundation are encouraged to help by making a donation to support the work of the Rapid Access Addiction Clinic.
Want to learn more? Read this piece on RAAC social worker Kaye Robinson