Our People. Their Stories - Nathan Burrill

Every day, Medavie's team of more than 8,000 professionals work to improve the wellbeing of Canadians. Join us as they share their stories and show how we deliver on our mission and bring our values to life. These are the people who make Medavie what it is today.

This article discusses topics of mental illness, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and more. Please stop reading if any of these themes may be potentially upsetting.

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Nathan with his Australian Shepherd mix Jack

Nathan Burrill
Trainer/Quality Assurance RN
Medavie Blue Cross

To a casual onlooker, Nathan Burrill lives an unassuming life. Married with four children, ages 7 to 13, he has a rewarding job as a Trainer/Quality Assurance RN for Medavie Blue Cross’s Medication Authorization Centre (MAC) Pharmacy. Drawing on his nursing background, Nathan helps train new Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses and analysts on Special Authorization rules and regulations and performs quality assurance audits. When he’s not working, the 37-year-old enjoys living near the ocean, spending time with family doing aquatic activities, gardening, reading, fishing and playing guitar.

But the journey to reach this stage has been anything but idyllic. He’s had to overcome a number of obstacles along the way, stemming from his clinical diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. This makes Nathan among the one in five working Canadians who have been diagnosed with a mental illness.

From a young age, Nathan had concerns about his psychological health.

“My emotional feelings and responses did not match the situations I was in. This led to fighting and irritability as a child.”

He played hockey as an outlet and as catharsis for his emotions. However, by the time he was a teenager, his responses to situations were overwhelming, and he began self-harming to cope. His symptoms only worsened when he reached adulthood, and the pressures of daily life intensified.

“I started having chronic feelings of emptiness and unhappiness, dissociating, hallucinating at night, having racing thoughts and eventually worsening self-harm and then suicidal ideations. I went to the ER for help and entered the mental health system.”

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Nathan, nursing degree grad photo

Despite his condition, Nathan earned a diploma in Chemical Engineering Technology and worked to support his growing family, initially as a laboratory technician in an analytical laboratory. However, when his mental health reached a crisis point, Nathan had to leave his job.

After several working diagnoses of Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar II Disorder, multiple hospitalizations and trials on medications, Nathan still saw little to no success. This was when he began dialectal behavioural therapy. Finally, he had mental health professionals who could explain exactly what he was feeling and why. Not only did he find the sessions helpful and eye-opening, but Nathan says his therapist was also instrumental in saving his life.

By this time, he had been hired by Medavie Blue Cross to do data entry, advancing quickly from a temporary to a full-time position.

“This department, and my team lead, were supportive of my therapy schedule and allowed me the time to go. Though I didn’t share the extent of my problems with my leaders, I did feel safe enough to ask for time for therapy. By feeling this support and by having an environment where I succeeded, I started to do better. I was able to provide for my family, to work a steady schedule and to get the help I needed.”

After a few years, and with now three children at home, Nathan was ready to make a career change that would increase his earning potential.

The first step in that path was returning to university to study nursing while continuing to work for Medavie Blue Cross during the summers.

Nathan says his proudest professional achievement is obtaining his nursing degree as a mature student, winning several scholarships, and achieving a cumulative 4.0 GPA over four years while raising a young family with his wife.

“I am proud that with good support, hard work and dedication, I was able to accomplish something I didn’t think that I could do.”

After he finished his degree, Nathan accepted a position at the Saint John Regional Hospital on the cardiac surgery floor. However, having an interrupted sleep schedule due to shift work and being away from his family took its toll and put him at risk for a relapse of borderline symptoms. He reapplied to Medavie Blue Cross.

“I was hired to work in [the] MAC Pharmacy as a nurse and have been very successful in this role. I’m able to support my family and to work a steady schedule. I am able to use my skills (intellect, fast thinking, keyboarding) and to have some accommodations for some of my weaknesses. This has made for a safe and comfortable workplace where I can be my best.”
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Nathan, newly graduated RN

Nathan notes that as a health insurer, Medavie Blue Cross requires health experts of all sorts, including nurses, who perform a variety of roles.

Nurses make great doorkeepers, collaborators, and decision-makers in this environment, as they have the ability to talk with all health professionals and have the ability to make good health decisions quickly under pressure. This makes them an integral part of Medavie’s team.”

Nathan appreciates his employer’s commitment to work-life balance.

“I can perform better in my roles outside of the workplace with my consistent schedule at Medavie.”

He also appreciates his employer’s openness to employee input.

At Medavie, there are opportunities provided for everyone to express opinions and make change when a good case can be made.”

Though Nathan still struggles with chronic feelings of emptiness and unhappiness, he has learned to cope using the tools he acquired from psychotherapy. This allows him to be the husband, father and employee he needs to be and to “make the world a better place” for those around him.

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Nathan and wife Katrina and their children Asher, Enya, Christian and Daniel

“I am doing so much better, and many people would not be aware I had anything wrong.”

Nathan agreed to tell his story to support others with a mental health concerns.

“I am a big believer in sharing the truth in our stories so that others will feel braver to open up about themselves too.”

Nathan says the main challenge of living with mental illness is that it doesn’t go away. His advice to someone experiencing the same?

“Don’t hide how you’re feeling, and don’t repress your feeling. Talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling. Take ownership of your actions and change the things you can.”

Mental Wellness Options Available

If you or a family member are struggling to cope with a mental health issue or are experiencing thoughts of suicide, make sure to seek professional health. Members and their dependents have access to mental wellness options available through MBC’s digital health platform, Connected Care, including counselling with a therapist via text messaging, internet-enabled Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Live Therapy and guided meditations. Other mental health services and supports include our Employee and Family Assistance program, inConfidence, our wellness portal, My Good Health, and our Expanded Mental Health Practitioners Benefit.

Our Mission is to Improve the Wellbeing of Canadians.

Medavie is a health company that oversees Medavie Blue Cross and Medavie Health Services. Together, we’re bringing Canadians better health and access to care.