Making it easier for nurses to self-report drug abuse

Thousands of nurses are dealing with drug and alcohol use that potentially could lead to unsafe situations for patients. And yet, many are failing to self-report these behaviors, for fear of losing their jobs, the Associated Press reports. That’s been the case in Wisconsin, where some worry that a government-run program for nurses with substance use problems is keepings RNs from seeking help. They’re advocating for an independently administered program, similar to those in states like Colorado or Florida, where participation rates are higher. The AP estimates that about 3,000 nurses in Wisconsin deal with addiction, and only 37 are currently enrolled in the program, run by the Department of Safety and Professional Services.

School nurses OK’d to administer opioid overdose antidote

Meanwhile, in other drug-related news, as a growing sign of the opioid epidemic, school nurses across Cabell County, W.Va., last week began administering the opioid overdose drug naloxone. They’ll be able to do so in every grade, K-12, following approval from the state board of education, according to WSAZ News Channel 3. Cabell joins other areas in the Mountain State, such as Brooke County, which was the first to begin administering naloxone in schools last year. Someone with the Huntington (W.Va.) City Hall told the TV station that this is a precautionary measure, and they’d rather be safe than sorry in the event of a child overdosing from heroin or prescription painkillers. "It's a lot like having a fire extinguisher at any public place. We're not having a rash of fires at schools, but we still have a fire extinguisher. It's the same principle,” says Jim Johnson, director of the Mayor’s Office of Drug Control Policy.

Maine mandates e-prescribing for nurses, other clinicians

Keeping with the same topic, the state of Maine’s governor last week signed a new law requiring nurses and their peers to administer prescriptions electronically as a way to fight the spread of opioid pain pills. Maine follows in the footsteps of New York, which did the same earlier this year. The new bill — backed by the Maine Nurse Practitioner Association, among others — requires that all prescribers take part in the state’s prescription monitoring program, and ditch the paper-and-pad method of writing an Rx. Plus, it limits the strength and duration of opioid prescriptions and requires addiction training for clinicians every two years. Legally obtained painkillers such as OxyContin and Percocet are often a gateway to illegal drugs, the governor’s office notes, as about 75 percent of heroin users started their addiction with prescription opioids. “Heroin addiction is devastating our communities,” Gov. Paul LePage says in a press release. “For many, it all started with the overprescribing of opioid pain medications. We can prevent many people from even trying heroin in the first place by putting these limits on the flow of pain pills into our homes.”

Rapid fire

Here are a few more nurse-related items that caught our eye this past week:

  • The national shortage of nurses is on the rise, with 16 states expected to experience a smaller growth in RN supply compared to demand, according to the Portales News-Tribune.
  • The Corporate Whistleblower Center is seeking nurse managers and other health care executives to take part in a collaboration aiming to identify Medicare or Medicaid fraud in their respective states.
  • Finally, if you’re thinking of furthering your career by going back to school, College Choice just released its list of the best master’s degree in nursing programs across the country.