Tireless, compassionate, and dedicated, nurses stand on the front lines of addiction treatment in hospitals and rehab facilities across the country. To recognize National Nurses Week, May 6-12, we are taking a closer look at the role our team of nurses plays to shine a light on the rewards and challenges of this vital position.
Counselor, Provider, Educator
Nurses are typically the first clinical encounter for patients entering a drug and alcohol rehab facility. They provide care throughout the patient’s stay, from the initial assessment through treatment and follow-up care. This requires the nurse to be equal parts counselor and medical provider, especially during the first few interactions with the patient.
Upon admission, nurses are tasked with screening patient by asking a variety of questions to determine his or her health status. In addition to assessing the patient’s overall physical condition, nurses monitor for physical and psychological signs of drug or alcohol misuse.
It is important to note that these screenings are designed to help—not judge. Screening questions are essential to understanding a patient’s complete health history and are not used to impose shame or guilt.
In addition to assisting with clinical treatment, nurses also educate patients (and their caregivers or families) on pain medication and alternatives for pain management, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen as alternatives to opioids.
Front Line Challenges
Nurses who work in addiction treatment facilities are required to provide both physical and emotional care in a clinical setting, which can present unique challenges.
Nurses invest time and energy into patients who may relapse repeatedly before treatment becomes effective in sustaining recovery. This may lead nurses to feeling that they have ‘failed’ their patients in some way. Nurses can also struggle to deal with the friends and family of the patient and what may be enabling or triggering behaviors that contribute to renewed drug use for individuals in early recovery. In the worst cases, nurses must face the challenge of losing a patient altogether to complications of addiction.
Compounding all of this are the unprecedented disruptions to the health care system delivered by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing opioid epidemic that have caused many to abandon the profession due to stress and burn out.
One thing is certain, however: compassionate, caring nurses are, and will remain, a vital part of the army of addiction professionals needed to combat America’s drug and alcohol crisis.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction or a substance use disorder, call the New England Recovery Center today at 1-877-MyRehab.