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Nurse gives back to community

By Amielle Christopherson

Jordan O'Brien is a surgerical nurse who also works with the Quinte area Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Response (DVSARP) team. As someone who continually works under stressful situations, O'Brien says that baking is what relaxes her and keeps her centered. Photograph by Amielle Christopherson

How does someone cultivate an interest in medicine? For most, it begins when they are young and surgical nurse Jordan O’Brien is no exception. And she has the scars to prove it.

“I have a scar from the breastbone all the way down,” she tells me as we sit in a Belleville Tim Hortons, jazz music playing overhead.

“You can tell if I wear a bathing suit and people are like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’” she laughs.

“And I’m just like, ‘Yeah, it’s all been sewn up. It’s all good,’ ” she shares as she references the year she spent in the hospital as a child.

Now in her 30s, O’Brien is dressed in scrubs, sipping a green tea, and has a black beeper attached to the purse in front of her.

Tonight she’s on call for the Quinte area’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Program, also known as DVSARP, even though she’s just come off of a shift at the hospital.

As a child, O’Brian was in and out of the hospital, with both diabetes and then a colostomy at the age of 10, which gave her the body scar but also helped feed her passion for medicine.

A graduate from Loyalist’s three-year nursing program, she’s been a nurse for the last 10 years, a psychiatry nurse for the first seven, a surgical nurse for the last three.

The decision to become a surgical nurse was made to give her a better schedule, so she took an online course through Loyalist and now has more weekends and evenings off. That, however, is being put to use for the violence and sexual assault response program, which O’Brien has been working with for the last two years.

Her psychiatry background helps here. Even though, during the program, students are given help in regards to what to expect, what sort of trauma they might have to deal with, having that background made that easier for O’Brien.

“It did help, definitely, to have a psychiatry background, to know what you’re going into, how things work. To know about the shelters and the crisis helplines,” she says of her working background.

As to why she decided to start working with the response program, she pauses a moment and looks up at the ceiling before answering.

“Somebody explained to me there’s quite a high degree of assaults in this area and honestly? I didn’t believe it was possible because it seems like a nice, low key, small but big town,” she admits.

“I said, ‘No, that’s impossible! There’s nothing in the newspaper,’ and someone explained to me that, just because it’s not in the newspaper, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.”

That’s when she decided to give the program a try, and found out how scary small, quiet, low key Belleville can be.

As for the reason assaults aren’t shared with the public via the paper, it’s for the safety of the victim.

“If you were assaulted, we couldn’t put your name or your address, anything that would identify you as the victim,” she explains logically, hands moving in front of her to help drive her point home.

After working with the program for a few months, she was shocked with how much goes on in Belleville that people aren’t aware of. And that’s what convinced her to stay on and for her, it’s a job she finds very rewarding.

In terms of how the public is informed of the unpleasant things that are going on, barring releasing victim information, there are quarterly statistics that are placed in the paper as to how many assaults have happened in the area.

Sexual assault workers will go to the high school, where the most vulnerable demographic is, to help educate and warn. They also hold events such as Take Back the Night, as well as forums for people to speak their mind and to raise awareness of what’s going on and what to do if someone is assaulted. Shelters also have information that they give out.

“There’s a lot of education out there for people, even though there probably could be a little bit more,” she says.

“But,” she adds, “We get feedback and that’s what helps us know that what we’re doing is working.”

However, with a job as stressful as hers, the question is posed about whether or not it goes home with her.

“I’m not a stressful person,” she says truthfully, “You gotta kind of let it slide off your back. You can’t take all the sadness home with you.”

Her response to combatting sadness is to bake.

“I bake actually quite often. It’s really relaxing. And I knit all the time,” she admits. Not only that, but as she has no children of her own, O’Brien takes her three god-kids out all the time shopping, to plays and movies.

“Yes, the job we do is sad,” she adds bluntly, “But it’s also very rewarding. You know when someone is put in jail for the evidence you’ve collected, it’s rewarding to know you’ve sort of helped clean up the streets,” she admits, a bit of a proud smile playing on her face.