According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States during the 12 months ending May 2020. This is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded over a 12-month period, according to the CDC.
Joyce Johnson of Vine Grove, who serves as a health care provider and clinical director of outpatient services at Stepworks in Elizabethtown, said based on her own experience working with those struggling with drug addiction, she attributes the dire statistics to forced isolation on those recovering due to the pandemic.
“This isolation and lack of connection has really been the biggest challenge that has come with COVID,” she said. “We have lost a number of patients and it is very sad.
This is why, for Johnson, increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates and reducing reluctance to vaccinate in the community is a personal endeavor.
Johnson is currently participating in a national media campaign known as Nurses Make Change Happen. Announced last month, the campaign is organized by the National Nurse-Led Care Consortium (NNCC), a subsidiary of Public Health Management Corporation. The campaign is made possible through a cooperative agreement with the CDC to promote confidence in vaccines among nurses and the communities they serve.
Through the Nurses Make the Change campaign, nurses receive a comprehensive toolkit to promote confidence in immunization in their communities. Some tools include vaccine backgrounders that can be shared on social media and helpful infographics. The campaign also offers bi-weekly webinar sessions for fellow nurses to ask questions and resources for nurses to organize their own community outreach events.
According to Gallup, nurses have consistently been ranked as the # 1 trusted profession since the analysis firm’s list was created in 1999. The only exception was after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when firefighters took over. took the first place. According to the 2020 poll, 89% of Americans rated the honesty and ethical standards of nurses as “high” or “very high.”
Kristine Gonnella, senior director of strategic initiatives at NNCC, said she hopes building on this established public trust will increase confidence in the vaccination among those who may be hesitant.
“This is an opportunity for us to build confidence in immunization among our nursing colleagues as well as the communities our nurses serve,” she said.
Gonnella said the campaign also serves to highlight the work nurses have done amid the pandemic.
“This is truly an exciting opportunity to work with nurse leaders across the country to promote the work nurses have done and continue to do on the front lines,” she said.
Johnson is featured in a video recently posted to the NNCC YouTube channel. During the video, she discusses topics such as the challenges she faced as a nurse in the midst of the pandemic, when and why she decided to get the vaccine and how she approaches a conversation with someone. who is reluctant to get vaccinated.
In the video, Johnson also recounts some of the rewards for his work. She said a highlight was when she was able to hug a patient for the first time since the pandemic after the patient was fully immunized.
Johnson said her involvement in the campaign came after she was invited to sit on an advisory board on vaccine reluctance through the NNCC. She said she got involved because the council was looking for nurses who serve vulnerable populations and underserved communities. As a healthcare professional who works with people facing substance abuse issues, Johnson said board attendance was crucial.
“I have a very vulnerable patient population and I’m always looking for times when I can advocate for them and times when I can raise awareness of the needs of this group,” she said. “My people are great but they are often stigmatized and often overlooked.”
In addition to participating on the advisory board and being featured in the video, Johnson also participated in the bi-monthly webinars provided by the NNCC.
Originally from Indiana, Johnson and his family moved to the area 11 years ago. She began her career as a Certified Practical Nurse, working in northern Indiana while studying at Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg and then worked as a Licensed Practical Nurse and Registered Nurse.
After moving to Kentucky, Johnson received a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Louisville. She obtained a certification from addiction counseling from Drexel University in 2018.
Working with the Stepworks outpatient office in Elizabethtown, Johnson has worked with the Recovery Services Network for over five years. The facility provides primary care, behavioral health care, addiction treatment, and addiction treatment counseling to anyone with a history of substance abuse or to those who have a loved one with a history of substance abuse.
Through her role as Clinical Director, Johnson is responsible for community outreach and the development of new programs and services for Stepworks.
“My job with Stepworks is probably the most rewarding job I’ve ever done,” she said. “My patients are some of the strongest, most resilient, most self-aware and beautiful people I have ever met. It is very, very rewarding work.
For more information on the Nurses Making the Change campaign, visit bit.ly/38MFqwR.