What Does a Substance Abuse Nurse Do?
Nurses that work in substance abuse are often specialized in pain management and help to regulate the treatment and administering of medication for patients addicted to drugs, alcohol and other substances. To work as a substance abuse nurse, one must have a thick skin, be compassionate and sympathetic. These nurses also spend a great deal of time educating their patients about the dangers of substance abuse and possible treatment options. They provide a great deal of support for people that have little else in their lives besides addiction. Substance abuse nurses can work in private facilities, mental health clinics, psychiatric wards, hospitals and inpatient or outpatient treatment center. Because addiction is both a mental and physical disease unique to each patient, substance abuse nurses should be knowledgeable about both general medicine and specialized addiction related medicine, as well as be able to customize their treatment programs to their patients.
How Can I Become a Substance Abuse Nurse?
To become a substance abuse nurse, one must first become a licensed registered nurse. To accomplish this, a student can attend a two or four year program in nursing, where they will learn anatomy, chemistry, physiology and patient care. They must then successfully pass the national licensing exam, NCLEX – RN. After this, a nurse must log around three years of practical work experience as a registered nurse with 4,000 hours, or two years, in substance abuse nursing before they can be eligible to sit for the certification exam. This exam is sponsored by the International Nurses Society on Addictions and is only available twice a year, so candidates should prepare accordingly. Passing the exam allows a nurse to be called a Certified Addictions Registered Nurse (CARN) and offers them to be more competitive in the workforce and even command a higher salary.
What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Substance Abuse Nurse?
There is currently a high demand for nurses across the United States, but especially for substance abuse nurses. As the number of addicts in this country rises, so does the demand for specialized medical professionals. Today, one in every ten Americans abuses some kind of substance. One of the benefits to working as a substance abuse nurse is the freedom and autonomy it can allow. These nurses can organize family member support groups, serve on task forces, lead educational programs and become abuse counselors. Also, the ability to help a patient recover from an addition and essentially save their life can be very rewarding. One of the biggest drawbacks to working as a substance abuse nurse is how close you can get to patients, and the challenge of working long hours. Patients will often call their nurses at all hours of the day looking for support, drugs, medication or other aids. This can be tiring and disappointing for the nurse.