Nurses Lined Up
addiction and healthcare

Nursing Colleges Enhance Their Curriculum to Stay In Tune With Substance Use Disorder

November 14, 2019

Nurses have always been on the front lines of the opioid crisis.  They have the opportunity to recognize patients that might exhibit addictive behaviors.  However, many nursing colleges have only recently added programs about preventing and treating opioid addiction.  Associate professor in the department of acute and chronic care at Johns Hopkins University's School of Nursing, Deborah Finnell, said that since her arrival at Hopkins 5 years ago, she has made much more of an effort to encourage more education on substance use, which she recognizes is lacking in nursing programs across the country. She co-authored a report published by Nurse Educator last year suggesting ways that nursing programs can improve their curriculum to include more instruction on substance use and how to recognize and treat addiction. The report goes on to say that nurses play a critical role in the opioid epidemic because they can intervene before an addiction spirals out of control.

The University of Cincinnati Nursing School began reexamining its own curriculum a few years ago after joining 190 other American Association of Colleges of Nursing members in an agreement to teach advanced-practice nurses about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain," released in 2016. Associate professor of clinical nursing at UC, Sherry Donaworth, tied the guidelines into the nursing curriculum.  She know requires her advanced-practice nursing students to take three hours in addition to the usual six of instruction on how to prescribe opioids.  On another campus, Washington State Community College in Ohio, the director and associate professor of practical nursing education, Alicia Warren, said the nursing department recently introduced more information on opioid use. Students are asked to take a four hour course called Understanding Substance Use Disorder in Nursing, offered by the National Council of State of Boards of Nursing.  Students are also taught the proper way to administer naloxone.

Many nursing instructors agree that the stigma of addiction is a challenge.  To some, understanding and moving past this begins with the language we choose.  The term addict is avoided in mostly all educational and curriculum teaching nursing students about addiction.  Cincinnati recently started offering nursing students a presentation about the neurobiology of addiction, aiming to subvert negative attitudes tied to substance use disorder. Jennifer Lanzillotta, a clinical nursing instructor, created the session, which includes firsthand accounts from clinicians who became addicted to opioids themselves -- an issue that isn’t unusual in the medical profession. Lanzillotta is surveying students before and after the course to determine how their perception of addiction shifted after viewing the presentation.

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Original content can be found here.

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