KORY | ED Clinical Nurse Manager
You can’t rush someone into treatment when they’re not ready, so find a small way you can help them at that moment and leave the door open for the future.
I took an unusual path in this field; I started as a firefighter, which connected me to the first responder community and eventually led me to work in the emergency department (ED) as an EMT. I felt a sense of purpose immediately and went to school to become a nurse. Working in the ED, I saw the extent of the opioid crisis. People came to us for help, but we lacked the resources, process and institutional knowledge to help. That’s how I got involved in using medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) as a form of treatment. The more I learned about it, the more I saw its efficacy and the positive benefits on patients as they found treatment and recovery.
Seeing the power of MOUD firsthand is incredible. These patients have been fighting for their lives, struggling to give thought to anything else. The first time they receive these medications, they start thinking about their lives again, their health and their futures. When we started giving these medications, some colleagues said, “Won’t they just keep coming back?” Yes, they’ll come back and get the help they need. I felt this was a good thing. Today, attitudes are much different. Many doctors and nurses see the benefits and treat substance use disorder the way they would treat anything else. But there are still minds to change.
Having done this for a while, the advice I would pass along to other nurses is that you have to meet patients where they’re at in life. You can’t rush someone into treatment when they’re not ready, so find a small way you can help them at that moment and leave the door open for the future.
As a society, we created the stigma around substance use disorder. So, it’s our responsibility to overcome that stigma, especially by helping people understand their unconscious biases.