New curriculum addresses substance use disorder among nurses

University of Minnesota's Nursing School focuses on substance use

MINNEAPOLIS - While nursing students learn about substance use disorder among patients, they're often not taught about the risks of developing the condition themselves.

The University of Minnesota School of Nursing hopes to change that statewide. The school has developed new curriculum to teach students about substance use disorder within the field.

"If I wouldn't have had this curriculum, I don't think I would've been cognizant of the issue," said Jace Gilbertson, a senior UMN nursing student.

Gilbertson, who graduates Friday, is going into his first job at Abbott Northwestern Hospital aware of the risk factors. 

Gilbertson was part of the first class this school year to learn the new curriculum. The week-long program was part of the "Transition into Practice" class nursing students take during their final year.

"We learn a lot about substance use disorders in patients ... but this is really the first time they talk about it within, specifically, the nursing population," Gilbertson said.

The curriculum covers the risk factors nurses face on the job, as well as how to recognize if a colleague has substance use disorder.

"They're giving medications to patients all the time ... If your way of coping ends up being the use of alcohol or drugs, it can put a nurse in a situation where the nurse might be tempted to divert drugs for themselves rather than the patient," said Christine Mueller, professor and associate dean for academic programs at the UMN School of Nursing.

Students also learn about what support and protections are out there for nurses who are struggling with addiction, including the Nurses Peer Support Network.

"The work environment that nurses work in can be high stress," Mueller said. "They can be dealing with, as you would know, trauma or people dying. It can be very traumatic and that can really affect how people can or cannot cope with being in that kind of work environment. So we wanted to let students know that those kinds of things can put you at risk."

According to Mueller, they started talking about the need for this type of curriculum about two years ago. UMN School of Nursing will make it available to all nursing schools in Minnesota by the fall.

National Nurses Week runs from May 6 to May 12.

© 2017 KARE-TV


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