Substance Abuse Nursing: An Introduction

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The field of nursing is currently one of the fastest-growing professions. There is also a large shortage of registered nurses, far below the number needed to fill the expected positions that will be available by 2018. In 2008, there were 2.6 million nursing positions in the United States, both filled and unfilled. Over the last 10 years, that number has grown significantly, and in 2018, 3.2 million nursing jobs are expected to exist, with an expected shortage of 200,000 nurses.

The majority of nursing positions, more than 60 percent, are in hospitals, but the number of private practice opening will require more nurses in doctor’s offices over the next few years as well. With older nurses retiring, and not enough new applicants available to fill all the positions, the opportunity for securing a lucrative career in nursing is higher than ever

Nursing Specialties

In addition to becoming a registered nurse, you can also opt to study a specialty such as cardiac care, clinical nursing, anesthesia-related care, ambulatory care or substance abuse nursing.

Why Choose Substance Abuse Nursing?

Of all the specialty nursing fields you might choose from, substance abuse nursing provides the opportunity to not only help those in immediate need but also help them and their loved ones possibly enjoy a better future.

Specializing in pain management, substance abuse nurses help provide and regulate treatment for patients who suffer from one or more addictions, including alcohol, drugs, and other addictive substances. In addition to administering and overseeing treatment, a substance abuse nurse teaches patients about the various treatment options available as well as the many dangers of substance abuse. Providing such support to people who desperately need help to better their lives and have little else to focus on other than their addiction is vitally important — and extremely fulfilling.

Training Required to Become a Substance Abuse Nurse

A substance abuse nurse receives training both in general medicine and mental health, as handling patients suffering from substance abuse requires knowledge of both disciplines. Nurses will be needed to provide emotional support not just for their patients, but also for patients’ family members and loved ones, who are also affected and suffering.

The road to becoming a substance abuse nurse is not quick and easy, but the final destination delivers a truly gratifying sense of fulfillment, which is compounded with each successive patient who is helped. Candidates will first need to acquire an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and then pass the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s licensure examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Afterward, candidates will be required to have at least three years of experience working as a registered nurse or two years of experience working in a substance abuse-related field. After acquiring ample experience, candidates can elect to take the Substance Abuse Nurse Certification Exam, offered twice a year from the International Nurses Society on Addictions.

When seeking a school for nursing, candidates should take the time to research various choices, and possibly opt for a school that also offers substance abuse nursing as part of the curriculum.

Where Can Substance Abuse Nurses Work?

There are many facilities that a substance abuse nurse can find a position in. These include hospitals, inpatient and/or outpatient treatment centers, private practices, mental health clinics and psychiatric wards. Substance abuse nurses also fill many other roles in addition to providing treatment, such as organizing support groups, teaching, and leading educational programs, providing counseling, and serving on government or substance abuse task forces aimed at preventing addiction and helping those suffering from addiction.

Battling Substance Abuse in America

It’s no secret that America has a growing substance abuse problem. From alcoholism to rampant drug use in certain towns and cities scattered across the United States, no one is immune or safe from addiction. Substance abuse can start with just a few drinks or a trying a new drug — and escalate into a problem that consumes every aspect of life. It affects both rich and poor, young and old, male or female, and many may at first deny that they even have a problem. Part of helping those who are suffering from addiction is first helping them understand that they actually have an addiction, which is a crippling disease that destroys lives and families.

The varied skills of a substance abuse nurse are a critical component of helping stem the tide of addiction and provide much-needed care, help, and rehabilitative treatment. The job is, of course, a stressful one, especially in serious cases that deeply affect both the patient and her loved ones, including any children that may be involved. It is trying, but also highly rewarding, and tackling the problem head-on offers a substance abuse nurse many opportunities that other nurse practitioners don’t often receive.

Working with varied teams of professionals, being able to handle extreme stress, learning how to communicate clearly and effectively, and using good judgment in crisis situations are skills that are just as important as anything learned in the field of general medicine.

To learn more, check out the infographic below created by Duquesne University’s Online Master of Science in Nursing program.

Substance Abuse Nursing An-Introduction Infographic

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