These 3 factors will define nurses' roles in fighting the opioid epidemic

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Opioids kill 130 Americans per day, and nurses play a critical role in screening and identifying patients with substance use disorders, according to AJC Pulse.

Three things that will define nurses' role in the opioid epidemic:

1. National and state policies

Nurse practitioners' ability to prescribe opioid treatment is severely restricted in certain states. At least six states that restrict NPs' role in prescribing buprenorphine for opioid patients also have some of the highest rates of opioid addiction, according to an April 2019 study in JAMA. To combat the problem, states can take steps to connect NPs with physician supervisors to allow them to prescribe buprenorphine.

2. Nurse organizations' advocacy and actions

Nursing organizations such as the American Association of Colleges of Nursing are increasingly speaking up to define nurses' roles in relieving the epidemic. "AACN is committed to mobilizing the academic nursing response by joining the National Academy of Medicine's Action Collaborative on Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic," the organization said, which will help it coordinate action at the local level.

3. Actions from individual nurses and schools

Smaller-scale efforts will also make a meaningful difference in combating opioid addiction. Grant funding will allow Atlanta-based Emory School of Nursing faculty to teach an elective course on substance use disorders, for example. The course aims to eliminate the stigma surrounding addiction and teach nurses how to ask patients appropriate questions about substance use.

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