Substance Use Disorder in Nursing - September 2021

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Substance Use Disorder in Nursing

By Jillian A. Russell, MSN, RN, NPD-BC

During the 2021 Annual Convention, a panel of experts— Judy Davidson, DNP, RN, MCCM, FAAN, Cadie Ayers, MSN, PCA, Marie Manthey, PhD (hon), MNA, FAAN, FRCN, and Amanda Choflet, DNP, RN, OCN—presented Dismantling Stigma in Nurses with Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Issues: From Moral Failure to Chronic Disease. This thought-provoking session shed light on the fact that nurses are at a higher risk of suicide than the general population and that nurses have more job-related problems prior to death by suicide. Implications for education, leadership, and advocacy were shared—but where do we go from here?

One nursing professional development (NPD) practitioner is addressing these implications as part of her volunteer initiatives. Current ANPD President-Elect Sheila St. Cyr, MS, RN, NPD-BC, sits on a Peer Assistance committee through the Oklahoma Board of Nursing. The Peer Assistance Program supports the Oklahoma Board of Nursing in its mission to safeguard the public. The program is an alternative-to-discipline program for nurses whose ability and competency may be compromised by a substance use disorder. The purpose of the program and the committee members is to provide structure and monitoring of the recovering nurse. The goal of the program is for the recovering nurse to be treated and return/continue to the practice of nursing. 

Sheila shared that her desire to volunteer for this committee and program stems from working with several nurses who had substance use disorders during her novice years as a nurse. Many of these nurses diverted controlled substances for personal use. They were good nurses—but circumstances in their lives led them to a place where the disease took over. One nurse, who did not divert but rather had multiple prescriptions, overdosed and died. This tragedy made Sheila wished she had known more about substance use disorder. If she had, maybe she could have intervened. Sheila would like to encourage all NPD practitioners to ensure that some form of education exists within orientation, onboarding, and ongoing professional development about this crucial topic. With a better understanding and knowledge of substance use disorder, lives could be saved.

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