Leadership

Nursing Groups Ramp Up Efforts to Address Opioid Abuse

By / May 10, 2016 (iStock/Thinkstock)

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners has joined forces with other nursing organizations to get a handle on the opioid abuse crisis.

The opioid abuse problem in this country “is past reaching a crisis point,” according to David Hebert, CEO of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. AANP and several other nursing organizations have announced a joint educational initiative that aims to combat opioid abuse, encourage safe prescribing practices, and make sure patients with pain maintain access to pain relief.

At a time when the opioid crisis is attracting attention nationwide, including among local government organizations and the National Governors Association—and as reports are emerging that the death of music legend Prince may be linked to opioid painkillers—AANP has partnered with six other nursing groups on their own initiative.

“Our joint commitment reaffirms AANP’s dedication to promoting evidence-based standards for opioid abuse prevention and education, while recognizing the need for patients suffering from chronic and acute pain to access essential pain care,” AANP President Cindy Cooke said in a statement. The group is partnering with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the American Nurses Association, the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, and the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties.

The initiative includes providing more than 30 hours of continuing education, a webinar, and two dedicated pain management tracks at upcoming conferences. It will also help educate nursing faculty, students, and clinicians about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, which was released in March.

At the same time, AANP is advocating for legislative changes that would allow nurse practitioners to prescribe treatment for opioid addiction. Nurse practitioners prescribe medication in all 50 states, “but they are not yet authorized to order therapy for opioid abuse patients,” Hebert explained. Millions of Americans are being treated by nurse practitioners, but “they are hamstrung” when it comes to opioid abuse treatment, he said.

Education and advocacy are important to AANP members, and “we are acting on both fronts,” Hebert said. He added that he is optimistic about seeing legislative changes in the coming months, noting that there is “heightened concern” about the opioid crisis from the public and from legislators and that the White House has also supported efforts to address the problem. For example, the White House Champions of Change for Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery event in late April recognized nursing schools for their commitment to addressing the opioid abuse problem.

More than 2.1 million people in the United States are struggling with substance abuse related to opioids, according to AANP. Enhancing nurse practitioners’ skills to screen and treat opioid abuse has been a priority for AANP for years, and as its work with other organizations and with the government coalesces, “we are intensifying our efforts,” Hebert said. The goal is to “make sure patients get the care they need, and we turn the tide of this crisis.”

Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. More »

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