The University of Minnesota School of Nursing (UMN) will be implementing a new focus on substance abuse among registered nurses. This isn’t an issue commonly covered in nursing programs, but the university wants students to be aware of addiction and address the stigma surrounding it.

Professor Christine Mueller and doctoral student Dina Stewart were responsible for creating the curriculum. Stewart plans to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner following her graduation. Their curriculum will highlight substance abuse as an issue among nurses, not only how it pertains to nurses, as covered by most nursing programs.

Stewart tells the Minnesota Daily that, “Even though the addiction rate among nurses is on par with the general population – around 10 percent – substance abuse is often more evident and problematic given that nurses have easy access to medication.” Having higher access puts nurses at a higher risk for substance abuse, especially when combined with a high-stress work environment.

Mueller and Stewart simply want to make nurses aware that substance abuse disorders are a risk for nurses. Their curriculum will teach students how to identify the signs and symptoms of substance abuse and how to recognize behaviors in themselves and their colleagues. Stigma surrounding addiction will also be addressed. Addiction is a disease, and Mueller wants the curriculum to teach students that addiction should be identified and treated as a disease to help lessen stigma.

Nursing is considered one of the most trusted professions in the healthcare system, and that holds nurses to a high ethical standard. The better they understand the risk, the better the outcome will be.

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To learn more about UMN’s new nurse substance abuse curriculum, visit here.

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