Nurse Practitioner in Addiction Treatment: Limelight Interview

Nurse Practitioner Amy Bukala (with Medical Director Dr. Dosanjh above) is not easy to pin down for an interview. She’s busy. And mobile – moving from Sanford Outpatient Center to the residential Sanford Houses, the back of her white coat flapping. As a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Amy works autonomously as well as in collaboration with other Sanford healthcare and clinical  professionals to provide family-focused care.


The definition of “family” can be broad in the addiction treatment field. And at Sanford House, we incorporate the vital role of family in our evidence-based programs. In that regard, Amy offers a wide range of healthcare services to our clients. She is qualified to diagnose and treat complex heath conditions of both body and mind.


Addiction does not discriminate. It is an illness that cannot be defined by social status, race or gender. When clients come to Sanford House I tell them, ‘So far you’ve survived 100% of your worse days. When you work with our multidisciplinary team, we will help you learn that you are worth a life in recovery.’ Amy Bukala, Family Nurse Practitioner


Nurse Practitioner duties include (but are not limited to):

  • Conduct medical exams
  • Perform diagnostic testing, assessments and evaluations
  • Prescribe medications
  • Develop treatment plans
  • Educate clients on both the treatment and prevention of disease
  • Provide methods of achieving health and wellness
  • Manage holistic patient/client care


Limelight Interview – Nurse Practitioner (FNP-BC) Amy Bukala

Addiction Nurse Practitioner light

Shining a light – Sanford House at Cherry Street for Women


1. What is your primary focus?

I work with Sanford House clients. And assess their medical needs to make sure they are stable. I also assess their level of safety – are they in a safe environment and do they feel safe as they are withdrawing? In 48 hours I can get more details about their substance use and co-occurring disorders. How is the client sleeping? How is their anxiety? Within 48 to 72 hours the client is more medically stable. But as the drugs of choice wear off, the other symptoms might intensify.


2. What might those symptoms be?

Sleeplessness. Anxiety. A client might say, “I use so I  don’t freak out.” They might start thinking of the negative social stigma – regret and shame comes to the fore. And with those who have self-medicated and anesthetized themselves for years there is unresolved grief, anger, and a high level of anxiety.


3. What is the key to success in recovery from the Nurse Practitioner standpoint?

The fact that the therapy is right there. There are no other programs like this in the state (and I’ve been around…). The solidarity of the program at Sanford is a big benefit to recovery. The fact that clients are dealing with the symptoms as they withdraw from substances. And the role of the family and the in depth approach to the family unit helps long term.


nurse practitioner addiction in front of treatment center

Amy Bukala in front of Sanford House at Cherry Street for Women


4. What are the biggest pitfalls?

Lack of support. Lack of access to resources. The lack of education and untreated co-occurring illnesses.


5. What would you describe as the “fun” part of your job?

Interacting with clients. They have great stories – great lives that need to continue. I like to introduce them to new things, new protocols.


6. Least “fun”?



7. What do you read in your free time?

Books, articles, pamphlets on “medical treatment”. Right now I am reading something on NMDA receptors – one of three types of ionotropic glutamate receptors…


8. What is your most marked characteristic?

I am approachable. I have the ability to sit with someone on one of the worst days of their life and they are okay with me being there.


9. What is your favorite journey?

Right here. Right now at Sanford House.


10. Anything else, Amy?

Right now I am thinking about the chemicals that balance how you feel. I put them into three buckets. Serotonin – for anxiety and depression. Nor-epinephrine – for mood, depression and anger. And dopamine for attention and concentration issues. Imbalance can be caused by genetics, stress, hormones. And the correct medications to manage cravings and relapse can balance, stabilize and change lives for the better.

Thanks Amy… SH


Sanford Behavioral Health is licensed and accredited as an addiction, eating disorder, and co-occurring mental health treatment facility, serving all of Michigan and beyond. Each of Sanford’s facilities in Greater Grand Rapids is carefully and diligently crafted to create a welcoming and comforting environment. Sanford is led by a growing team of medical, clinical, and support personnel providing medication-assisted, evidenced-based treatment to residential, outpatient, and telehealth patients. For more information, visit