Twenty-first century addiction looms larger than illegal substance or alcohol abuse. Some addictions are so sublime that they are difficult to detect: examples include the food-addicted person hiding her binging and purging, the gambler borrowing funds to pay bills, the smoker who “isn’t hurting anybody,” to those addicted to sex, the Internet and consumerism.
Many addicted persons have been exhibiting behavior for so many years that it seems normal to family and friends until something else in their body breaks down, shining light on the addiction. This is why addiction nursing is so important. Nurses specializing in addiction gain the trust of their patients, treating the whole person, not just the addiction. Below is a profile of what an addiction nurse’s job is all about, including some resources for additional information in case you are interested in entering this exciting, expanding field of nursing.
Addiction Nursing Profile
(Also known as Substance Abuse Nursing)
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN program)
Registered Nurse (RN program)
What Certifications Are Needed To Be An Addiction Nurse?
Certified Addictions Registered Nurse
Certified Addictions Registered Nurse—Advanced Practice
These certifications require passing a series of exams qualifying the nurse to work anywhere in the United States as an Addiction Nurse. Check with your state certification office, hospital or university.
What Is The Average Salary For An Addiction Nurse?
$45,000 dependent on experience, location, benefits and industry
What Is The Job Description/Purpose For An Addiction Nurse?
Addiction nurses are LPNs, RNs, or MSNs who provide regular and specialized assessments and monitoring of patients undergoing detoxification and withdrawal from mood-altering substances, eating disorders, smoking and gambling disorders. Job responsibilities include basic nursing care, holistic nursing care and the administration of prescribed medications to ensure that substance abuse patients safely detoxify while operating as liaisons with physicians and the patient’s multidisciplinary team.
Addiction nurses may counsel patients and their families, act as advocates for patients and families, but are not certified as addiction counselors--although nurses may carry that certification along with the addiction nursing certification.
Nurses lend emotional support to patients and their families and teach coping strategies to deal with patient or family member’s substance abuse, eating disorder or gambling addiction, as addiction chronic, but manageable. Addiction nurses must be able to work with diverse people of all ages and conditions.
Work environment includes in-patient and outpatient support within hospital, office and clinical settings.
Which Skills and Qualifications should I have To Be An Addiction Nurse?
- Patient care assessment, identifying care requirements
- Application of the Addiction Severity Index
- Understanding patient care goals as voiced by the patient, making the patient a major part of his treatment and recovery
- Exemplary motivational interview and listening skills
- Interpersonal and group communication skills
- Critical thinking and shared decision-making ensuring protection of patient’s self-determination
- Providing advocacy as needed to ensure patient knows and understands his rights
- Ensuring patient informed consent
- Strong nursing skills and holistic health knowledge as addiction is rarely the only treatment necessary
- Provides compassionate support through all process phases
- Help patient become independent by meeting care goals and measuring those goals against patient healthcare outcomes, adjusting as necessary.
- Quality care assurance, following state and nursing guidelines and standards
- Work on a multidisciplinary team to discuss, assess and resolve patient problems, yet able to work independently
- Procedure compliance
- Infection control protocol
- Charting patient care in patient chart and department charts
- Documenting and communicating nursing care with next shift
- Patient confidentiality
- Troubleshooting equipment
- Maintain nursing supplies
- Maintain up-to-date nursing education, including knowledge of Internet resources for those with substance abuse
- Pediatric and geriatric addiction nursing knowledge
- Criminology background if needed for work venue
- 12-step and 3S knowledge and application skills
What are some other Addiction Nurse Skills/Qualifications?
- Clinical Skills
- Bedside Manner
- Infection Control
- Nursing Skills
- Physiological Knowledge
- Behavioral Knowledge
- Community Nursing Knowledge
- Administering Medication
- Medical Teamwork
- Verbal Communication
- Health Promotion and Maintenance
Daily routines vary depending on work venue, client needs, and experience. Responsibilities will likely include direct patient care, counsel, medication administration, meetings and charting.
What Are The Employment Outlook/Opportunities For Addiction Nurses?
Most nurse jobs require at least a master’s certificate in addiction nursing, although the addiction nurse shortage often allows for certification at the LPN level.
Getting started in an addictions nursing career requires an LPN or RN license, on-the-job training and addiction nurse certification. Hiring may be in mental facilities or hospitals, traditional hospitals, office, outpatient and inpatient settings. Resume or curriculum vitae usually required as well as one or more interviews for employment.
What Nursing Education is needed?
Continuing education units (CEUs) and opportunities for nursing education, part or full-time nursing programs and webinars:
- Traditional Vocational Programs
- Traditional University Programs
- Online LPN programs
- Online RN programs
- Mental Health Nursing programs
- Continuing Education Units
International Nurses Society On Addictions: Helping nurses across the board to maintain basic addiction care knowledge and skill sets through “advocacy, education, research and policy development.” The International Nurses Society on Addictions (IntNSA) was founded in 1975. Includes the Addictions Nursing Certification Board.
Nursing Council on Alcohol: The NCA is a registered charity, formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 2000 to provide support and definition to the nurses’ role in intervening with patients dealing with alcohol abuse. The NCA has been collaborating on a project with the World Health Organization regarding alcohol screening, intervention in the United Kingdom, and the results will aid nurses worldwide.
Association of Nurses in Substance Abuse: A professional interest group since 1983, the ANSA is a membership organization dedicated to advising health and social nurses and their institutions regarding specialized drug and alcohol information.
The Association for Addiction Professionals provides members with continuing education, webinars, resources, state affiliations, conferences and certification.
Addiction Nursing Links of Interest:
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD): Voluntary organization providing education and information to the public. Also maintains a “Registry of Addiction Recovery” for those addicts “coming out” so that stigma may be reduced and for support among alcohol and substance abuse addicts.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Focuses on the health and biology of alcohol abuse and alcoholism, includes studies and publications for the health care professional.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Facility and program locators.