My name is Christie Tait. I’m a Nurse Practitioner in Toronto who specializes in diagnosing and managing headache and concussion. My primary area of focus is the management of chronic migraine.
Early in my career I worked for many years in the emergency departments of The Hospital for Sick Children and Mount Sinai Hospital. It was common to have migraine patients (both kids and adults) come in for treatment of severe headaches. So common in fact, that there was a standard protocol to follow - IV fluids, pain medication, and anti-nausea medication. They would feel better after a few hours and be discharged home.
In the emergency department we were there to put out the fire of their most extreme headaches and send them on their way.
On one occasion, I was the migraine patient at the hospital. It was my 39th birthday. Not exactly the way you want to spend your birthday, but I needed relief from the headache that had been plaguing me for days and had reached an unbearable intensity. This is not an uncommon story in the life of a migraine sufferer.
Many years into my career, after completing my master’s degree and Nurse Practitioner program, I began working at The Neurology Centre of Toronto. I started seeing migraine patients daily. This gave me insight into the other side of their lives. The life outside of their emergency department visit. It was a revelation to see the bigger picture of their lives and to be part of the prevention side of their treatment.
There were so many similarities in their stories. Recollections of headaches in childhood, missing important events, struggling to explain their work absences, feeling as though they were letting their family down, and the dread of the next severe attack.
There are also the patients who have never been diagnosed with migraines. The ones who feel that the neck pain means a tension headache. The ones who believe that it is not a migraine because they can struggle through it. The ones who have never discussed their weekly headaches with their healthcare provider because it is their “normal.” And the ones whose headaches started following a concussion and are new to this pain.
I can understand these experiences because I have my own story and can relate in many ways. But I can also share my clinical expertise and knowledge with these patients. I can take the time to understand how these migraines impact their life. I can provide options so that they make treatment choices that are in keeping with their values. I can help them set goals around lifestyle behaviours that help reduce their headache frequency and intensity.
Over a decade into my career as a healthcare provider, I found my passion. I am grateful that I can help reduce the burden of this lifelong condition on my patients. I love that I get to know the personal backdrop to my patient’s lives and am appreciative that they share their stories with me. Understanding how important it is for them to see their child graduate, attend their anniversary party, get their promotion at work, and not be discriminated against because of their invisible suffering, helps to drive me to provide the best care that I can.
My hope is to share helpful resources and practical tips that I have learned in caring for headache sufferers.
This blog is not intended to provide medical advice for patients or serve as a guideline for clinical practice. If you are a person experiencing headaches, please see your primary care provider for assessment.
Christie Tait obtained a Bachelor of Biological Science from the University of Guelph, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Toronto, and her Masters of Nursing and Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner Certificate from Ryerson University.
She has worked at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and Mount Sinai Hospital Departments of Emergency Medicine. She is currently the Director of the Headache Program at The Neurology Centre of Toronto and a clinician at the Toronto Headache and Pain Clinic..
Her area of clinical expertise is the diagnosis and management of headaches and concussion. She is specifically interested in the preventative treatment of migraines through modalities including Botox injections, nerve blocks, and CGRP monoclonal antibodies in conjunction with non-medication based strategies. Christie is passionate about education and improving accessibility to quality headache care.