20 Under 40: Patty Oakland devotes herself to giving survivors a voice
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — In “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss, one of Patty Oakland’s favorite books, the title character says, “I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongue,” and that one line describes Oakland’s passion for her career and the community she serves.
Oakland, 33, is a forensic nurse at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center and also serves as the social change advocate for Advocates of Routt County. In these roles, she gives voice to the voiceless.
“I feel very empowered by my patients — that they’re brave enough to come forward and share with me and trust me,” Oakland said. “And I feel I can be a voice for them.”
As a forensic nurse, Oakland is often the first person a survivor meets when they make the decision to report a sexual assault and undergo a forensic exam to collect physical evidence. She is known for treating her patients with dignity and compassion, and she has become a tireless advocate for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
“Patty has volunteered countless hours of her time to making sure that Routt County has a forensic nurse who will look after victims of crime 24/7,” said Tamsin Angus-Leppan, who works with Oakland at Advocates and nominated her for 20 Under 40 recognition. “When Patty gets a call from ER, she drops everything to be there for a victim, to make sure their story is recorded, to make sure they are treated with the utmost respect and to help them start their healing journey.”
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Oakland also serves as coordinator of the Routt County Sexual Assault Response Team and is co-chair of the national Association of Forensic Nurses’ social justice committee. As social change advocate for Advocates, she champions efforts locally to raise awareness about sexual assault through community education programs like Good Night Out, currently being implemented at local bars, and through presentations at local schools and organizations.
Name: Patty Oakland
Profession: Forensic nurse, UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, and social change advocate, Advocates of Routt County
Education: Bachelor of Science in nursing, William Jewell College; and currently pursuing a master’s in criminal justice and forensic nursing at Xavier University with plans to become a holistic nurse practitioner
Growing up in Steamboat Springs and being a freestyle ski racer for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Oakland learned discipline and responsibility at a young age. She became adept at juggling school, training and travel and that ability to multitask at a high level has continued into her adult life.
“I get asked, ‘How do you do all this?’ And from my standpoint, how do you not do all this?” Oakland said. “I don’t know how to not be on a 19-hour day plan.”
And Angus-Leppan, who shares an office with Oakland, witnesses her friend and co-worker’s ability to tackle challenges with a smile.
“Patty is one of the busiest people I know, but she somehow manages to be present for each person she interacts with,” Angus-Leppan said. “She is a delight and an honor to work with. She is open, respectful and inspiring.”
Before becoming a forensic nurse, Oakland’s nursing career has included working in the emergency room of a veterans hospital in Kansas City, helping a professor conduct public health clinics in Kenya, Africa, serving as the school nurse at Steamboat Mountain School and working as a public health nurse for Northwest Colorado Health.
“I’ve just always been inspired by my work, and I’m passionate about it,” Oakland said.
When she’s not working, Oakland and her dog Harper volunteer with Healing Friends, and she also finds time to volunteer at her children’s schools and give health talks for the Newborn Network and area preschools. She also loves yoga, skiing, dirt biking, hiking and caring for her family’s eight chickens, two ducks and one rabbit.
When asked about her leadership style, Oakland said she is one who honors inclusiveness.
“I would not be a leader without the people who support me and work alongside me, including my husband, kids and family, who are amazing rocks for me,” Oakland added.
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