Addiction Nursing Profile
Addiction Nurses are also referred to as "Substance Abuse Nurses". A similar specialization is psychiatric nursing, which also focuses on the mental health of patients.
In order to qualify for certification, one must have completed an RN or BSN program. If an individual wishes to become an advanced practice addiction nurse, he or she must have at least a master's degree in nursing.
Which Certifications are Necessary?
According to International Nurses Society on Addictions (INTNSA), there are two different certifications for addiction or substance abuse nursing. One is required for RNs, and the other is for advanced practice status. The certification exams are offered twice a year, and the deadlines for application are April 1 and September 1 (approximately one month prior to the exam). The certifications and eligibility requirements are as follows:
Certified Addiction Registered Nurse (CARN):
- Must have a current, unencumbered RN license in US or Canada
- Minimum 2,000 hours (one year of nursing experience)
- Proof that the individual has completed 30 hours of continuing education related to addiction nursing
- Pass the CARN exam ($195-$455, depending on membership status)
Certified Addiction Registered Nurse (CARN-AP):
- Must have current, unencumbered RN license in US or Canada
- Master's degree or higher in nursing
- Minimum 500 hours of supervised advanced practice clinical experience in direct patient contact related to addiction nursing earned while in the master's degree program
- Pass the CARN-AP exam ($295-$555, depending on membership status)
According to Indeed.com, the salary range for addiction or substance abuse RNs is approximately $41,000-$67,000. This is a large range and an actual salary is likely to depend on education and certification level, experience, and the organization.
The job of an addiction nurse is unique in that the treatment they provide is both psychological and physical. Johnson & Johnson states that these nurses are skilled in pain management and assist with the physical treatment and medication, educate patients and families on the dangers of addiction, and provide psychological support for those who are struggling with addiction. Substance abuse nurses may monitor and assess the detoxification process, participate in patient interventions, or administer drugs to help patients manage their addiction. These individuals may work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, methadone or substance abuse clinics, and psychiatric offices.
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
- Providing compassionate support through all process phases
- Helping patients 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
- Working 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
- Maintaining nursing supplies
- Maintaining 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
Being a certified addiction nurse requires one to be at least an RN. These individuals are employed by a large variety of organizations, ranging from hospitals to rehabilitation clinics.
Certification is awarded for 4 year periods. An individual can renew his or her certification if he or she meets the eligibility requirements mentioned above for certification, submits an application with required fees, and either passes the certification exam or meets the requirements for re-certification (2,000 clinical hours and 60 points of credit for CARN and 1,200 advanced practice clinical hours and 80 points of credit for CARN-AP).
Professional Addiction Associations:
- 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.
- 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.
- Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing: Facility and program locators.