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I am an uninvited & grateful settler, living on the stolen unceded ancestral lands of the Coast Salish People, including the territories of the  xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səl̓ílwətaɬ People.

I had a brief career working as a registered nurse at a community mental health clinic in so called Vancouver. I was driven to nursing school by my desire to provide care to underserved communities and to fight against structural inequality.

After being labeled with the diagnosis "Substance Use Disorder", I was singled out for discrimination and forced out of the nursing profession. 

After hearing from many other workers who have also been mistreated and harmed by workplace substance use policy, 

I realized there was a need to band together and fight for change. 


So, along with my peers, I created the non-profit organization Workers for Ethical Substance Use Policy Society (WESUP).

I believe that workplaces should be safe and supportive. Employees should be offered voluntary, confidential, culturally appropriate health care services that are based on current harm reduction / health promotion principles.

The self-determination and human rights of workers should be central to any workplace substance use policy.

I am committed to using my position to fight for ethical workplace substance use policy, and the rights of workers who use drugs.  




I acknowledge with respect that I am living on the traditional, ancestral & unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səl̓ílwətaɬ people. 

In 2004, after completing my Bachelor Degree in Science in Nursing (UVIC, with distinction) and the BCIT Perioperative Nursing Specialty (with distinction), my nursing career began in the Operating Room at BC Children’s Hospital.  I have always been drawn to challenging, dynamic, and fast-paced work environments that are teamwork based. I began working with the BC Transplant Society in 2006, which sparked an interest and passion in organ retrieval and organ transplant medicine.  In the years that followed, I felt I was naturally drawn to trauma care, and organ transplant medicine.  Caring for the patient from the emergency room, to the operating room, to the intensive care unit fascinates me.  Career highlights include practicing on the Orthopedic Trauma Team at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), being a member of the Lung and Liver Transplant teams in the OR at VGH, and independent post-mortem tissue retrieval for the Eye Bank of British Columbia.  To increase my knowledge and scope on trauma and transplant medicine, I completed the BCIT Intensive Care Nursing Specialty (with distinction) in 2016 and began working in the ICU at Vancouver General Hospital.  I’ve enjoyed and completed several physician trauma courses including the Definitive Surgical Trauma Care Course (VGH), the Advanced Trauma Life Support Course (VGH), and the nursing course EPICC in Trauma.

My interest in WESUP and the values therein, arose from many varied life experiences.  My particular focus is harm reduction through ethical substance use policy for the healthcare worker, peer support, and health promotion.  Current health care worker’s struggle to navigate an old and archaic treatment system for which we seek change.  Healthcare workers are exemplary in caring for patients, but sometimes fail in caring for themselves, and caring for each other.  Stigma, fear of discipline, and discrimination often keep their voices quiet, and this contributes to barriers to fair healthcare access as a result.

I am very excited to collaborate and fight for change, and to have the opportunity to collaborate and co-found "Workers for Ethical Substance Use Policy".  




I acknowledge with respect that I live and work on the traditional lək̓ʷəŋən territories of the Songhees and Esquimalt nations.

I am a Registered Nurse currently living in Victoria BC. I have spent the majority of my career providing care for patients admitted to medical hospital wards. I have always had a great deal of empathy for people living with substance use disorders and have long been aware of the stigma they face in the attitudes of the general public. It wasn’t until I began my nursing education, however, that I witnessed the real life consequences of this stigma. Even when education and personal experiences were contradictory I noticed an uncomfortable number of my peers and future colleagues allowing stereotypes to form the foundation of their beliefs about substance users. I learned through observation and discussion that some nurses are able to set their negative beliefs aside for the sake of providing good patient care while others, unfortunately, are not. This led to a personal vow very early in my career to provide the most positive and supportive nurse-patient experience possible when caring for those who have substance use challenges. I was compelled, in a sense, to attempt to counteract the troubling reality of stigmatization in healthcare from the bottom up.


In recent years my awareness of beliefs about substance use came full circle to include the lived experience and unique challenges of those on the “other side” of the nurse-patient interaction, those who we tend to avoid acknowledging; healthcare professionals who struggle with substances. I discovered that the current substance use policies forced on healthcare professionals, and many other workers, are rooted in negative belief systems and are designed to allow for substantial monetary profit by a select few. I learned that these policies have been adopted by employers and governing bodies largely due to ignorance and continue to be enforced due to refusal to acknowledge that ignorance. Most importantly I have learned that these policies are harmful, discriminatory, coercive, and create barriers to positive outcomes on many levels. The motivation to stop those who promote and profit from these failing policies has compelled me to expand my viewpoint to include a top down perspective; to advocate for change through organized action. I am honored to be involved in bringing WESUP to life and am looking forward to collaborating with the talented co-founders and exceptional members of this society as we work towards the goal of influencing imperative policy change. 


Katrina Stephenson



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