Addiction Nurse


Addiction Nurse Job Description & Scope of Practice
Addiction nurses monitor and administer medications during the withdrawal period. It is up to the nurse to ensure that patients withdraw safely and as comfortably as possible. Not only do addiction nurses take care of the patient’s physical needs, emotional needs are addressed as well. Counseling that includes topics such coping skills, boundary setting, life-style changes and family interactions are vital for full recovery. The nurse takes care of these needs and may even work as an advocate for the patient or the patient’s family. In other words, an addiction nurse treats the whole patient rather than treating the disease only. For this reason, substance-abuse nurses are different from many other kinds of nurses.

They seek to treat the whole family rather than merely working with the patient. Strengthening support networks for the patient and securing follow-up resources for the patient and family is also required.

Substance-abuse nurses may also specialize in pain management as pain is often a trigger for drug use and withdrawal causes pain which must be managed. Nurses must also recognize that every patient will have different needs, and they should be able to customize their approach and methods to best suite the personality and needs of each patient. Compassion, sympathy and an understanding of how the drug-addicted brain works is also a must as are good communication skills.

Addiction Nurse Education Requirements , Schooling  & Training

To become an addiction nurse, candidates must first complete training and licensure as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Registered Nurse (RN). The track for obtaining licensure in these fields includes completing an accredited nursing program and passing the NCLEX, the national licensing exam. RNs often have more opportunities to advance over LPNs as many facilities seek to hire more qualified individuals. Many addiction nurses are trained while working at treatment centers, psychiatric institutions that treat substance abuse or in a hospital that detoxifies patients. While on the job, nurses may be assessed according to their listening and assessment skills, communication skills, intervention skills and education skills. They may also have to attend lectures as part of the institutions training curriculum.

Addiction Nurse Certification

The International Nurses Society on Addictions (IntNSA) offers a certification program for addiction nurses through their certification board, the Addiction Nursing Certification Board (ANCB). Certification formally recognizes and documents special skills pertaining to substance-abuse treatment. To become certified as a Certified Addictions Registered Nurse (CARN) or Certified Addictions Registered Nurse-Advanced Practice (CARN-AP) candidates must possess an RN license and have a minimum 2,000 hours working as a nurse in an addictions setting or a Master’s degree with 500 hours of direct patient contact respectively. The certification exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions pertaining to stimulants, depressant substances and hallucinogenic substances plus process addiction, biological needs, psychosocial needs and cognitive needs all arising from addiction.

Addiction Nurse Associations

While the IntNSA is the main association for addiction nurses, other similar associations support addiction nurses as well. The IntNSA supports nurses working in all addiction fields including alcohol, drugs, nicotine, eating disorders, dual and multiple diagnoses and gambling. The Nursing Council on Alcohol (NCA) develops knowledge and awareness of alcohol related problems. The Association of Nurses in Substance Abuse (ANSA) specifically deals with drug and alcohol addictions. Numerous educational boards exist as well including the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA),

Addiction Nurse Salary

Currently, the average salary for addiction nurses is $45,000. Salary depends on experience, geographical location and the hiring institution. Salaries can vary greatly from one location to another. For example: The average addictions nurse salary in New York is $52,000 whereas the average salary for the same position in Boise, Idaho fetches only $40,000. Mental-health nurses and counselors fall slightly below this amount at $38,000 and $37,000 respectively.

Addiction Nursing Career Prospects

Career prospects for addiction nursing are promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the nursing field are expected to increase by 22 percent over the next decade, more than any other sector. Obtaining specialized training and certification in substance-abuse nursing increases chances of securing and maintaining employment as the need for these types of nurses are expected to increase as well. 

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