From Christchurch to London – and back; CPIT nursing tutor and lecturer Jamie Walker is sharing a wealth of experience in mental health and addictions care with his students at the institute where his career began.
As a school-leaver, he wanted to travel the world. But 17 year-old Walker listened to his dad who told him to get a qualification so he could both travel and work. And nursing was just the ticket.
A passion for mental health nursing, which started early on in his career, paved the way for a seven-year stint in London at Charing Cross Hospital, first on the wards, then as a mental health liaison.
"It was quite a senior role at 23 years old, and I had that "imposter syndrome", like someone was going to find out how young I was!"
While in the United Kingdom, Walker also did a stint with the British prison service. Then one Sunday he was asked to dispense methadone, and got hooked, not on the substance, but on the plight of people struggling with addictions.
After returning to New Zealand in 2005, he worked at Hillmorton Hospital for the next 10 years in drug and alcohol services, including the Christchurch methadone programme.
This led to a deep interest and study of opioid medication, which reduces withdrawal symptoms in people addicted to heroin or other narcotic drugs without causing the "high" associated with the drug addiction.
Walker was guest lecturing on that very subject at CPIT last year when he was offered a tutoring position in two key nursing subjects, communications and clinical studies.
Walker says it was hard to leave Hillmorton, and the relationships he had built with both patients and staff.
"Methadone research has grown so much, and I felt like I was only just getting started."
However, CPIT's study and family-friendly environment made it possible for the 38 year-old father of three to continue his post-graduate work into opioid dependence treatment. He is also staying in the loop by continuing to train his students at his old hospital, and keeping up his clinical skills by working with treatment groups in his own time.
"The deciding factor was flexibility to complete my thesis, and I've got the support here to do it. But I also took the job because I enjoy the educational aspect of tutoring students. I'm still young enough to recognise where they're at."
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