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Letter to the Editor by April Hardy to “Opiate Crisis and Healthcare Reform in America: A Review for Nurses”

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June 18, 2018

Response by April Hardy to “Opiate Crisis and Healthcare Reform in America: A Review for Nurses” by Susan G. Painter (May 31, 2017)

With Reply from Author

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to the article, “Opiate Crisis and Healthcare Reform in America: A Review for Nurses,” by Susan G. Painter (2017). The opioid epidemic is no secret, and overdose rates continue to rise. I found this article to be extremely enlightening and informative, giving insight to the number of lives lost to opioid overdose. This article shed light into the steps that are being taken to combat this problem from many different areas. I appreciate the insight and thoughtfulness into how nurses can possibly effect change. I believe education regarding addiction and overdose is imperative for all nurses; therefore, I plan to introduce this to my nursing supervisor so that education can begin in my hospital. Education regarding addiction and overdose is imperative for nurses at all levels.

Victims of addiction can be anyone. Oftentimes, addiction occurs with individuals who have been prescribed an opioid after surgery, for chronic pain, or for other reasons. Individuals addicted to opioids need more education with regards to opioids. Providers and nurses need to thoroughly educate patients being prescribed opioids and the risks. Nurses should encourage providers not to over-prescribe opioids, instead prescribe enough for a few days then begin use of another type of medication. Nurses should advocate for appropriate pain control for patients and support using opioids only when other methods have been unsuccessful. For chronic pain, other methods including psychotherapy or spinal cord stimulation should be tried first prior to prescribing an opioid. I agree with Painter regarding how nurses are in excellent positions to bridge the gap for individuals seeking help from addiction. Not only can nurses act as an advocate, ensuring that patients receive appropriate treatment, they can also connect them to crucial resources that could potentially save their lives.

Painter (2017) discussed how changes in federal, state, and local policies can impact addicts. Unfortunately, we are in a critical time in America where the number of lives lost continues to increase daily. Policy changes can take an extended length of time to become effective. However, the time is now. We must act now before more lives are lost to such an unnecessary cause. Bartlett, Brown, Shattell, Wright, and Lewallen (2013) noted that there are societal stigmas regarding addiction. The way a nurse reacts to an individual facing addiction can be helpful or harmful. Addiction truly is a disease; therefore it needs to be viewed in that way. When nurses, providers, and families begin to see addiction as what it really is, change can then happen. Having a negative view or opinion regarding an individual facing addiction can impact the care that is provided to the patient, as well as eliciting an unfavorable response from the patient. Bartlett and colleagues (2013) found that utilizing evidence-based interventions and minimizing unnecessary attitudes, can allow individuals facing addiction, the ability to attain the best health feasible.

In conclusion, I plan to increase the awareness of the opiate crisis here in my area as well as encourage nurses to rethink the way they may view addiction by providing an in-service to the nurses on my unit. Education, beginning in nursing school, regarding opioid use and abuse can dramatically change the way addiction is regarded. Nurses need more education on how to properly and effectively educate their patients regarding effective pain control methods. Education for nurses on how to view addiction as a disease is necessary. Nurses, providers, and families should strive to be sensitive to the struggles faced by addicts. I am optimistic that policies will change quickly throughout the United States to allow for quicker response to the rising epidemic.

Sincerely,

April Hardy, RN
RN-BSN Student, UNC-Wilmington

References

Bartlett, R., Brown, L., Shattell, M., Wright, T., & Lewallen, L. (2013). Harm reduction: Compassionate care pf persons with addictions. Medsurg Nursing : Official Journal of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses, 22(6), 349–358.

Painter, S., (2017) Opiate crisis and healthcare reform in America: A review for nurses. OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 22(2), Manuscript 3. doi:10.3912/OJIN.Vol22No02Man03

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