Twelve years after Jan Stewart’s death, Anita was the first CRNA to reveal addiction to a national audience. Anita's hope for sharing her compelling personal story is to bring greater realization to the reality of addiction and convey a message that provides encouragement for all nurse anesthesia professionals to help others find treatment and recovery; the hijacked addicted brain is not capable of making the necessary lifesaving decisions. Bertrand recalls the quote from Jan Stewart’s daughter, “We must grant each other permission to save each other.” Jan
Stewart's daughter, Sarah Stewart Gomes, provided the introduction for Anita's
lecture. Photo: from left to right, Anita Bertrand, CRNA, MS; Linda Stone, CRNA, MSN; Sarah Stewart Gomes and daughter Amelya.
Anita Bertrand, CRNA, MS is a member of the AANA Peer Assistance Advisors committee (PAAC) and provides State Peer Assistance for Texas CRNAs;
she helps guide others who are suffering from the disease of addiction find treatment and recovery. Anita’s story is documented in Case #1 of the article, Two New Case Reports of Propofol Abuse and a Pattern Analysis of the Literature, by CRNA authors Welliver, Bertrand, Garza and Baker. After fifteen years practicing in the nursing field, she experienced substance abuse and addiction. The suspected trigger was a post-operative infusion of fentanyl, which along with her genetic predisposition to addiction, soon led to diversion and self-administration of fentanyl. Anita also authored the Peer Assistance News article in the May 2013 AANA NewsBulletin (member log-in required).
USA Today Addresses Drug Diversion Issue
A video interview with Anita is featured in a USA Today article, “Doctors, Medical Staff on Drugs Put Patients at
Risk,” published in print and online
editions on April 16, 2014. The impetus for the article was the recently formed
Drug Diversion Prevention Committee’s (DDPC) work to bring awareness to the
topic with the goal for broad based nationwide improvements in preventing
more (member log-in required).
HONOReform's patient safety advocacy blog includes Anita's story to bring awareness of addicted healthcare workers to support patiety safety efforts: http://www.honoreform.org/blog/
Reducing the Stigma of Addiction
Much has changed on the stigma of addiction in nurse anesthesia since Jan Stewart’s tragic death in 2002. Many feel this can be attributed largely to her family’s choice to, "open the door to the realization that the anesthesia community had a very serious wellness and chemical dependency problem. This led to the realization that no one is immune from the risk, and when the risk is ignored, our whole profession loses" according to Terry Wicks, CRNA, MHS, former AANA President. See video of Jan's daughter Sarah speaking of her mother's legacy.
Another leading factor in reducing the stigma is scientific advances in understanding the genetic predispositions and the “on switch” of an addicted brain. For more on this topic, see Wearing Masks and the Wellness/Chemical Dependency in the Nurse Anesthesia Profession online modules.