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Nursing professor, expert on mental health and addictions shares insights

Friday August 8, 2014
Christine Vourakis, RN
Christine Vourakis, RN
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The American Academy of Nursing has named Christine Vourakis, RN, PhD, MN, a Sacramento State University professor of nursing and a nationally recognized expert on mental health and addictions, to its 2014 Class of Fellows.

We recently spoke with Vourakis about her advice for student nurses and how the field of addiction has changed during her more than 30 years in nursing:

Q: What impresses you most about the nursing students you teach at Sacramento State?

A: Iíve never worked with students who are so earnest, involved and committed to the field of nursing. The National Student Nurses Association has chapters in every state, and so many of our students are involved in the California Nursing Students Association, which is the state subset of the NSNA. Professional nursing associations provide opportunities to connect with peers in general practice and in oneís own specialty, with peers in different specialties, learn about new trends, [earn continuing] education credits and to participate in the political process. Itís nice to see our students taking this level of interest so early in their education.

Q: You have pursued higher education throughout your career. What advice do you have for other nurses in this regard?

A: As nursing continues to develop as a profession, weíre seeing an increased need for nurses to continue their education beyond the baccalaureate level. Advanced degrees also open more career paths to employment for graduate nurses. Many upper-level management, advanced practice, and education positions require a masterís degree, and increasingly a doctoral degree. The DNP is much like the MD in that, they are both terminal clinical practice doctoral degrees in their respective disciplines. The PhD in nursing prepares nurses for careers in research and/or teaching.

Q: Whatís the No. 1 take away from your research about the role of self-help groups in recovery from addictions, and why is it so important?

A: In the past, many people would attend one meeting of a self-help group and decide itís not for them. In my research, and in the work of others, our findings indicated that people who were more likely to be successful in the ongoing recovery from their addiction were those that attended a variety of meetings until they found one or more groups that were right for them. For people with addictions, finding meetings they like, and going back, may be one of the hardest tasks in recovery. Groups can vary so much in diversity that itís important for people to find meetings where they feel comfortable and will stay and listen and contribute.

Q: What initially piqued your interest in work with addictions?

A: In the early 1970s, I worked in the emergency room at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. We saw a lot of patients for acute withdrawal symptoms, and they didnít seem to belong there. As a critical care nurse, I saw a need for a more comprehensive approach to intervention, but there were very few detoxification centers in existence at the time, and even fewer extended treatment facilities. We have understood for some time now that recovery from addiction is a lifelong process and people who are successful are attentive to their needs on a daily basis. While the length of formal treatment needs to be tailored to the diverse circumstances of each client, participation in self-care and 12-Step Recovery groups can help to support the life-time recovery process.


Linda Childers is a freelance writer. Post a comment below or email editorWest@nurse.com.