What Is a Nurse Specialized in Substance Abuse?
A substance abuse nurse, often known as an addiction nurse, is a healthcare professional who specializes in the treatment of patients who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, or other substances. In addition to basic medicine, substance abuse nurses are trained in mental health. They provide pain management, education on the dangers of substance usage to patients and caregivers, and emotional support to individuals in crisis.
Becoming a Nurse Specialized in Substance Abuse
As with other nursing jobs, the first step toward becoming a drug abuse nurse is to earn an Associate’s Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, which provides a foundation in nursing. Elective courses in mental health will be very beneficial for aspiring addiction nurses. After completing their education, nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN exam. An RN may then pursue employment as a substance abuse nurse. Certain employers may require the RN to become a Certified Addictions Registered Nurse (CARN).
A typical job advertisement for a substance abuse nurse would most likely include the following credentials, in addition to those relevant to the workplace type and location:
- ADN or BSN degree and a current RN license are required.
- Ability to make good decisions in patient care
- Effective communication skills are necessary for teaching patients and their families about the hazards of substance abuse and available treatment alternatives.
- Proficiency with computer applications and data input for the purpose of keeping track of patient records
- Prefer experience in mental health and/or addiction.
- Compassionate and professional manner toward patients who are battling with addiction
What Education Do Substance Abuse Nurses Need?
Substance abuse nurses must typically possess an ADN or BSN degree and a valid RN license in the state in which they intend to practice. Generally, a higher nursing degree is not required unless the RN decides to pursue certification as an Advanced Practice Certified Addictions Registered Nurse (CARN-AP), which requires at least an MSN. At any degree level, students interested in pursuing a career in drug abuse nursing should take elective courses in mental health and addiction.
Is it necessary to obtain any certifications or credentials?
After completing 2,000 hours of professional nursing experience in the substance abuse sector and 30 hours of continuing education in addictions nursing within the last three years, a nurse may sit for the Addictions Nursing Certification Board’s Certified Addictions Registered Nurse (CARN) certification exam (ANCB).
Additionally, the ANCB offers certification as an Advanced Practice Certified Addictions Registered Nurse (CARN-AP). This certification requires a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a higher form of education, which is then followed by 45 hours of continuing education and 1500 hours of advanced-practice addictions nursing experience within the last three years (with a minimum of 500 hours of supervised addictions nursing experience).
Both CARN credentials are valid for a period of four years. While CARN credentials are not needed for all employment in drug abuse nursing, they demonstrate to prospective employers a nurse’s commitment to substance abuse nursing.
Where Do Nurses Specialized in Substance Abuse Work?
Nurses that specialize in substance misuse work with patients and their families in a range of settings, including the following:
- Clinics for mental health
- Hospital psychiatric wards
- Facilities for inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment
What Is the Role of a Substance Abuse Nurse?
A drug abuse nurse provides direct patient care to those who are addicted to or abusing substances. They collaborate with physicians to design treatment plans, conduct patient assessments, track patients’ progress, and administer drugs and pain management services. Mental health and emotional support services are a critical component of substance abuse nursing. During treatment, substance abuse nurses frequently conduct mental health exams and provide emotional support to patients and their family. Additionally, they educate patients and their loved ones about the hazards of substance usage and provide resources and information about available addiction treatment choices.
What Are the Substance Abuse Nurse’s Responsibilities and Duties?
- Conduct initial patient assessments and medical exams, as well as ongoing monitoring of the patient’s condition.
- Assist physicians in generating personalized treatment programs and implementing and monitoring them
- Assist in the administration of drugs and in the provision of pain management services
- Maintain and update patient medical records and charts.
- Patients and their loved ones should be educated about the dangers of substance abuse and the numerous treatment choices available.
- Assist patients and their families who are battling addiction with emotional support, which may involve arranging and facilitating support groups.
Salary and Employment for Substance Abuse Nurses
Nurses specializing in substance abuse are in great demand around the country, as the number of people suffering from substance misuse addiction continues to grow. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual compensation for registered nurses is $68,450, and nurses with particular skills and knowledge may earn much more. Nurses can also earn a greater salary by obtaining relevant certificates, such as the CARN certification.