Employing empathy in addiction recovery treatment

By The Health News Team | September 7, 2022
Elliot Sutton-Inocencio of Sharp Mesa Vista

“I love that I get to work with patients from all walks of life who are seeking to better themselves at Sharp McDonald,” says Elliot Sutton-Inocencio, a lead clinical nurse at Sharp McDonald Center.

On any given day, you can find Elliot Sutton-Inocencio, RN, a lead clinical nurse at Sharp McDonald Center, educating patients about medication while offering them support in addiction treatment. Sutton-Inocencio also regularly collaborates with his colleagues — including pharmacists at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital — to treat patients with substance use disorders.

“I love that I get to work with patients from all walks of life who are seeking to better themselves at Sharp McDonald Center,” he says. “It enriches my life.”

Saying he’s always had a general interest in people and science, Sutton-Inocencio’s desire to become a nurse grew from a young age. “I’ve been familiar with the medical field for a long time because my mom and dad both had careers in health care,” he says.

Sutton-Inocencio attained a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN); became a registered nurse; and in 2015 began his nursing career in telemetry — monitoring and treating patients with cardiac disease and other serious medical conditions. But the high-stress atmosphere prompted him to pause.

“I didn’t know back then how to properly practice self-care and I was engaging in unhealthy coping mechanisms,” Sutton-Inocencio says. “I got burnt out.”

A needed break leads to a new direction
Sutton-Inocencio took time away from work to embark on his own recovery journey. This enabled him to better understand and empathize with others who engage in unhealthy ways of coping. He also developed a deeper passion for holistic wellness and mental health.

With his revitalized passion, Sutton-Inocencio rejoined the nursing world in 2017. Soon after, he began working as a clinical nurse at Sharp McDonald Center and advanced to become a lead clinical nurse the following year.

“I embed the ‘recovery model’ in my work,” he says. “It views people as capable of recovery and empowers them to achieve freedom from active addiction.”

The recovery model is a treatment philosophy at Sharp McDonald Center that encourages self-growth in addiction treatment by highlighting five core elements: hope, connection, empowerment, self-responsibility and a meaningful life.

“The model also emphasizes making healthy decisions and receiving treatment as ways to achieve recovery,” says Sutton-Inocencio. “I view recovery holistically — it can be found in many aspects of life through the restoration of relationships, interests and hobbies.”

The importance of connection
Sutton-Inocencio says that having healthy relationships — both personally and at work — is particularly essential when working toward recovery. “I have a great support system at home with my wife. Also, our team members — including therapists, clinicians, mental health associates, nurses and staff — care about each other, their patients and their recovery,” he says.

Sutton-Inocencio also appreciates another benefit of working at Sharp McDonald Center: being a part of the Sharp HealthCare system. “Being on the same campus as Sharp Mesa Vista and Sharp Memorial Hospital affords us access to a lot of resources,” he says.

As Sutton-Inocencio cares for his patients’ mental health, he also takes care of his own. He incorporates mindfulness, meditation and recovery meetings in his personal self-care routine, which ultimately helps him be a better nurse.

“I’m grateful to work here,” he says. “I get to show patients that you can enjoy a healthy life. And I’m inspired by people who lead productive lives through recovery from addiction.”

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol or drug use, Sharp McDonald Center offers treatment options that can help.

Get the best of Sharp Health News in your inbox

Our weekly email brings you the latest health tips, recipes and stories.