Personal struggle inspires vocation, advocacy

Nicolle Potvin, a Bradley Hospital milieu associate, battled anorexia as a teen and today advocates for eating disorder awareness and education. 

After overcoming an eating disorder as a teenager, Bradley staffer Nicolle Potvin vowed to help others with similar afflictions

Nicolle Potvin’s battle with anorexia began at age 16. She said what started as a diet quickly became a dangerous obsession. During one two-month period, Potvin lost 20 percent of her body weight. At times, she thought she wouldn’t survive.  

With the help of family, Potvin committed herself to overcoming the disorder and received extensive treatment for anorexia and anxiety disorder. She not only survived but has thrived. Nicolle is now on a mission to help children and teens suffering from similar problems, which makes her job so fitting.

As a Bradley Hospital milieu associate, Potvin is responsible for supervising and supporting patients in the Adolescent Inpatient Program. While she does not work with patients who have eating disorders, the 22-year-old’s life experience has certainly had an impact on the care she provides.

“You have to have courage and resilience. You can either let your weaknesses tear you down or you can let them make you stronger and build you up,” she says.

“Nicolle’s personal experience with anorexia clearly created an incredible level of empathy and compassion that is evident in the interactions observed between Nicolle and the patients,” says Susan Lantz, MPA, BSN, RN, nursing director of adolescent services at Bradley. “Her creativity and level of engagement with our patients illustrates her commitment to giving back to those who may be struggling as she did during adolescence.”

Eating Disorder Resources 

The Eating Disorder Program at Hasbro Children’s Hospital provides multidisciplinary, family-centered care for children and adolescents with eating disorders. 

To make a referral or an appointment, call 401-444-4712.

Learn more about the program

Potvin believes education and awareness about eating disorders are critical.

“I survived for a reason, and that’s to help educate others going through the same thing,” says Potvin, who graduated with a psychology degree from the University of Rhode Island in 2017. At the URI commencement, she spoke about her experiences recovering from anorexia.

“I tell (young people) ‘I’ve been in your shoes,’ and I feel that sometimes it can really inspire them,” Potvin says. “It’s helping better or save someone’s life. It’s why I do it.”

Potvin’s advocacy work landed her a National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) scholarship to attend their 2017 conference in Chicago and she’s coordinated NEDA Walks at URI. She’s also taken her eating disorder awareness efforts across the state by fundraising, giving speeches, and working with local elected officials to increase awareness.

Potvin plans to continue her studies in counseling psychology at Northeastern University with hopes of specializing in eating disorders and one day opening her own private practice or recovery center.