April 17, 2024

Adigo Angela Achoba-Omajali

Adigo Angela Achoba-Omajali

April 17, 2024

I recently had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Adigo Angela Achoba-Omajali for the Nursing The Future Emerging Career Series. As a dedicated and passionate nurse, Adigo has spent over a decade serving in various roles within Interior Health Authority, including currently as a Clinical Practice Educator under tertiary mental health. As part of the British Columbia Nurses union, Adigo holds the elected position of Executive Professional Responsibility Advocate and has been a union steward for over 8 years. 

Adigo’s nursing journey began at Thompson Rivers University, situated on the traditional lands of the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc within Secwépemc'ulucw, where she earned both her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and Master of Nursing degrees. Besides serving as member and Co-Chair of the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) anti-Racism council, which supports the board of directors in an advisory capacity; Adigo is also the president and co-founder of Igala Canada (https://www.linkedin.com/company/igala-canada-association/?originalSubdomain=ca), which seeks to unify Igala peoples in Canada and promote Igala culture, while also advocating against any forms of discrimination impacting the community.

Adigo is a Co-Founder and treasurer of the Coalition of African Caribbean and Black Nurses in British Columbia (CACBN). The coalition has been very vocal about the need for equity within the healthcare system by raising awareness about the challenges, barriers and health needs of African, Caribbean and Black people living in the province. CACBN is an organizational member of the Pan-Canadian Association of Nurses of African Descent (PCANAD), which represents organizations of Nurses of African descent from each province within Canada. Adigo serves as the inaugural Director of Finance and a co-founder with this national association; the first of its kind. 

Adigo’s work has been recognized with numerous awards; including being inducted into the Honor Society of Nursing, receiving the 2022 British Columbia Nurses Union Excellence in Leadership and Advocacy award, being named one of Canada’s Top 100 Black Women to Watch in 2023, and inducted as one of 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women for 2024. 

An indigene of the Igala Tribe of Ibaji Kingdom in Kogi state of central Nigeria, Adigo is fluent in Igala, English and several other languages, which has been a valuable asset in her work. Adigo lives on the traditional territory of the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc with her husband, Jacob and their two children. Adigo remains driven by a desire to make positive connections with students, trainees, and professionals, and to advocate for human rights and justice in her field.

Adigo began considering a career in nursing while witnessing the care of her grandmother, and was inspired to become a nurse that delivered the best care possible, for all people. Seeking excellent care for everyone is a continuous and powerful theme in the way Adigo has embraced her own nursing profession and through her leadership and support of others to do the same. 

Initially, Adigo sought her first new graduate employment on the inpatient stroke unit on which she had completed her final student practicum. Surprisingly, employment there was unavailable upon graduation, and Adigo realized after some time travelling, that she simply needed to find what work she could. The work available was in tertiary mental health, including geriatric and adult inpatient psychiatry secure units. After 18 months in that position, she branched out to work casually at a detox facility, and then further branched into the overlap of mental health and substance use care by working for six years in the community with complex mental health and substance use clients. As we discussed at many times in the interview, Adigo considers internal education and opportunities as incredibly important to growth and leadership, and a driving force for her as she engaged in exploring and eventually successfully achieving roles in representing BC nurses in a union capacity. 

What changes are you seeing in Mental Health and Substance Use (MHSU) care approaches of late?

Adigo notes that over her career in nursing, she has been encouraged to see that a previously more rigid and one-size-fits-all approach to mental health and substance use care is being increasingly replaced. Instead, tailored, and culturally safe approaches are being integrated more frequently, leading, she believes, into person-centred care. Adigo refers to Dr. Gabor Mate’s reframing of trauma  'trauma is not what happens to you...it is what happens inside you”.She notes that this trauma-informed approach, along with appropriate interventions and support can lead to treatment and healing. Where once complex MHSU diagnosis meant limited societal integration and quality of life, she now celebrates seeing previous clients in community, seeking their own enjoyment and fulfilment in life. 

Looking to the future, Adigo would like to see the typically lengthy treatment trials required for client stabilization be shortened through pharmacogenomic or tailored approaches, as current adjustments take significant time and trial.

What outcomes of COVID-19 have you noticed in MHSU care, and nursing?

Adigo notes that mental health is intertwined with aspects of daily living and experiences such as employment status, financial stability and social connection. The near-uniform social isolation and other factors destabilized by the pandemic have been irrefutably linked to increased incidence of negative impacts on mental health. Therefore, she notes it is even more imperative for nurses to be a part of holistic care for clients. For nurses, in practice and training, mental health and wellness should be increasingly integrated into all subjects and care areas, as in life.

What advice would you give to newly graduated nurses?

Adigo recalls how personally ‘unsure’ she felt upon graduation. After having experienced a redirection from what she first believed was her career path, Adigo advises other new graduates that ‘not having a Plan B is a mistake’. She encourages others to keep their options open and seek out possibilities and interests, approaching early career fields as a chance to explore all that nursing has to offer. Adigo maintains that for the newly graduated practitioner, every nursing space has ‘huge teaching’ potential, and to expect redirection in your early career.

What are your suggestions for nurses starting out in Mental Health and Substance Use nursing fields?

Adigo notes that preconceptions of MHSU nursing often require nurses to ‘push aside fear’. Adigo notes that this fear has multiple origins, including personal safety (leading to altered approaches that can remove a nurse from treating the client as human), and fear surrounding the lack of recovery in MHSU. Instead of leading with fear-based responses, Adigo suggests that nurses enter with compassion and hope for recovery, through a human first approach. 

Nurses new to the MHSU field can engage in employer-led courses, and Adigo additionally recommends external resources such as those found on the Canadian Mental Health Association, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toward the Heart, and British Columbia Centre on Substance Use websites. Examples of MHSU resources include depot injection training, violence prevention curriculum, mental health first aid, Naloxone training and Addiction Care and Treatment. 

How would you suggest that a new graduate nurse engage in gaining leadership skills and roles?

Adigo is passionate about the pursuit of opportunities as a nurse. She notes that in all roles and education, it is important to deliberately seek out mentorship, by both leaders and peers, as an initial step while you become established as a new practitioner. Adigo maintains that hand-on skills, in their many forms, through the time and space of front line work, are necessary to build and expand one’s leadership capacity. She also supports spending time exploring and pursuing professional development, noting that employer-based courses, certificates and micro-certificates all add up significantly in building your experience and resume. Nurses can also become engaged in the work of their local unions through introductory courses that introduce them to baseline knowledge of bargaining and regional structures. Adigo suggests connecting with managers to engage in education planning and requests such as for attending conferences.

As a current educator, what issues are you engaged with as you work to support nurses?

Adigo notes that she covers multiple care areas at times, and as she prioritizes her availability to support others, finds that her daily schedule is frequently determined by time-sensitive needs. She feels that responding to these needs as they occur is important for nurses' learning and their sense of her support. Adigo feels that continuing competency requirements, increasing nurse education and practice specialization would be better supported through embedded leaves and routinely scheduled education days; this approach acknowledges the need for nurses to spend days off in self-care and personal routines. For Adigo, the education of nurses means they are able to grow, and she perceives her rewarding role as educator to be that of one who “supports staff to provide the best care”.

As an experienced Mental Health and Substance Use nurse and leader, how can nurses protect their own mental health?

Adigo shares that as a union representative in British Columbia, she is proud to be part of a representative body that has and continues to negotiate for the mental wellness of nurses. One example is the Supplemental Mental Health Benefit for BC Bargaining Association nurses that includes extended coverage for a Registered Clinical Counsellor or psychologist. She also strongly advocates for using the personal leave days provided by your employer, noting that approaching that time with your own resiliency in mind may look like a massage, spa day or simply sleep! Adigo maintains that we must be aware of what or who is filling us up as we spend our time in the care of others. 

As we closed our interview, Adigo movingly noted that ‘my grandmother would appreciate my person-centred approach to nursing’. Caring for others at a depth that honours her ancestors is clearly visible in Adigo’s life and leadership and we celebrate all of her achievements and look forward to her bright future!  

Nursing The Future™ acknowledges that nurses across this country live, work and play on the lands of our Indigenous Ancestors and we join our members in expressing respectful gratitude for this privilege.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram