Emergency Nurses Aim to Improve Care of OUD Patients
At a time when emergency nurses are stretched thin with pandemic-related demands, is there still room for nurses to play a bigger role in caring for patients with opioid use disorders (OUD)? Jennifer Schmitz, MSN, EMT-P, CEN, CPEN, CNML, FNP-C, NE-BC, president of the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), says despite the current COVID-19-related challenges, nurses want to offer patients the best care possible, regardless of the reason.
“Just as nurses recognize patients with heart disease or diabetes to help determine the course of care in the ED, we also look to identify patients with OUD for the same purpose,” she says. “Emergency nurses see so many people, often when they are in crisis. We have an opportunity to make an impact at many points in their visit, from triage to discharge.”
In particular, Schmitz notes when armed with appropriate screening questions, nurses can better identify and assist patients with OUD. “The desire to become more involved in the process is rooted in a nurse’s goal to provide the best possible care to their patients, especially because they are often the first care team member a patient sees,” she says. “Any opportunity to help patients with OUD should be maximized.”
Other healthcare providers have not called on the ENA to play a bigger role in the management of patients with OUD. Nevertheless, Schmitz notes an interdisciplinary approach to care makes sense because it ensures all components of a patient’s health are addressed. “Utilizing those with specialized training in OUD is beneficial and can offer the patient an immediate support resource,” she says.
In fact, Schmitz observes the opioid crisis has been a focal point for the ENA for several years, particularly with respect to education and advocacy. For example, she notes the organization strongly advocated for passage of the SUPPORT Act, which was signed into law in 2018.1 Schmitz notes the legislation incorporated two bills, the ALTO Act and the Power Act. Collectively, this legislation focused on reducing unnecessary opioid use in the ED and aimed to improve coordination with community-based treatment for patients discharged from the ED after a nonfatal opioid overdose.
“The ENA has an Opioid Education Bundle available to all emergency nurses that includes opioid management tools, resources for identifying overdoses, discharge guidance, naloxone information, and more,” Schmitz says.2
She also notes ENA’s documentary, “In Case of Emergency,” paints a bigger picture of the opioid crisis from the ED nurses’ perspective.3
- Emergency Nurses Association. Emergency Nurses Association praises signing of SUPPORT Act. Oct. 24, 2018.
- Emergency Nurses Association. Opioid education bundle.
- “In Case of Emergency.” 2020.
When armed with appropriate screening questions, nurses can better identify and assist patients with opioid use disorder. Because nurses often are the first care team member a patient sees, an interdisciplinary approach makes sense to ensure all components of a patient’s health are addressed.
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