As part of our Year of the Nurse staff profiles, we recently caught up with Patricia Dribnenki-Pennock, a dedicated and passionate registered psychiatric nurse (RPN) working with vulnerable populations in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) at the Downtown Community Health Clinic (DCHC).
As a RPN, Patricia emphasizes she gets to do a broad scope of work. In her career, she has worked in urban health, in prison environments, on a sexual assault team, on harm reduction and with a variety of inner city and mobile clinics. She has educated clients and staff about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and testing, phlebotomy, wound care, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatment, crisis intervention and immunizations. She has also been an advocate, public speaker and more.
"I'm grateful that Vancouver Coastal Health has given me a chance to use my skills and experience," she says. "I feel valued!"
Patricia really enjoys her work at the DCHC and says, "The Downtown Community Health Clinic is so rad! It looks tiny from the outside, but the inside is full of wrap-around supports, and all kinds of staff (nurses, doctors, peer workers, social workers, finance teams, respiratory therapists, dieticians, pharmacists, home support staff, community liaison workers and more!"
There is also a pharmacy and harm reduction window.
"I'm so grateful and honored that the DTES community clinics have worked towards an integrated care team model," she says. "I think being an RPN is a great profession as our philosophy is about caring about the whole person with all of their bio/psycho/social/spiritual/physical qualities in mind."
Patricia is very passionate about her client population. "For me, I've always wanted to get to know people who may have a story just like all of us, but might not get a chance to voice it or be heard," she says. "I think everyone deserves to hear how amazing they are, and unfortunately, there are some communities or areas where people don't often get treated as we all want and deserve. I like to be included in these communities. There are so many inspiring individuals and I LOVE getting to hang out with people."
She has a big heart and is a nurse at her very core. Patricia started volunteering at a hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 2011 after the earthquake and has returned numerous times since.
"Our shifts were in the emergency/triage, med/surg, rehab, and intensive care units (including newborn and pediatrics). In between shifts I would go to the "infectologie" unit, for individuals with HIV and co-current illness, and give facials and mani/pedis to the patients, their visitors and staff too," she says.
Patricia is originally from Alberta and was awarded "Nurse of the Year" by the College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses of Alberta in 2013. She has always followed information and news from the DTES in an effort to be a better nurse for people who use substances, and is grateful to be a part of the community now.
"I love Vancouver and I LOVE working in the Downtown Eastside," she says. "Working in this community has been inspiring. There are so many beautiful, resilient, tenacious, talented hearts here. I smile and learn and grow every day. I don't think there's anywhere else I want to be."