What is a Substance Abuse Nurse?

A substance abuse nurse helps people overcome addictions to various substances through education, intervention, and treatments.

These specialists treat alcohol, drugs, nicotine, and other substance abuse disorders.

They also educate communities about the dangers of addictive substances and ways to minimize the use of addictive drugs.

As a result, substance abuse nurses play a vital role in improving their patients’ well-being, relationships, and general health.

What Do Substance Abuse Nurses Do?

Substance abuse nurses perform numerous duties to help patients overcome their substance abuse ailments.

They use their expertise to educate patients and families about the negative consequences of addictive substances.

They also help patients to wane off of addictive substances in as painless a manner as possible.

Substance abuse nurses develop treatment plans, educate communities about substance abuse, and advocate for better healthcare practices.

In addition, they perform various tasks prescribed by physicians to improve patients suffering from substance abuse.

Most substance abuse addictions result from an individual’s mental and physical dependencies on the substance.

As a result, these specialists learn to treat the patient’s psychological and physiological healthcare needs.

It enables them to provide more effective treatment and recovery processes than medications.

Substance Abuse Nurse Duties:

  • Provide medical care and support
  • Monitor patient vitals
  • Educate patients and families about substance abuse
  • Update medical records
  • Assist patients with recovery and therapies
  • Administer treatment plans
  • Guide the recovery process
  • Wane individuals off of addictive substances
  • Consult communities about substance abuse
  • Act as a liaison between the patient and doctor
  • Advocate for better patient care

Where Do Substance Abuse Nurses Work?

Substance abuse nurses work in various environments that concentrate on substance abuse and recovery.

It includes rehabilitation clinics, outpatient centers, healthcare clinics, hospitals, home care, and substance abuse facilities.

These specialists typically operate in settings that help rehabilitate patients suffering from substance abuse disorders.

Occupational Settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Rehabilitation clinics
  • Outpatient centers
  • Psychiatric wards
  • Healthcare clinics
  • Home care
  • Substance abuse facilities
  • Mental health clinics

A substance abuse nurse’s responsibilities vary depending on their employer, job setting, and career experience.

Although less common, substance abuse nurses may treat other nurses with substance use disorder.

In these situations, a nurse may find relief from work overload, family problems, or depression through addictive substances.

As previously mentioned, addictive substances hurt people’s well-being, relationships, and health.

It may negatively impact a nurse’s performance, which is extremely important because they provide medical care to patients.

How to Become a Substance Abuse Nurse

Becoming a substance abuse nurse requires obtaining adequate education, training, and certification.

As a result, it’s essential to understand the path registered nurses take to operate in this field.

This section explores the steps aspiring students and healthcare specialists must satisfy to become substance abuse nurses.

It includes joining a nursing program, obtaining a degree, passing the NCLEX-RN, acquiring experience, and getting certified.

Steps to Become a Substance Abuse Nurse

  • Join a nursing program
  • Obtain an ADN or BSN degree
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN exam
  • Acquire work experience
  • Get CARN certified

1. Join a Nursing Program

The first step to becoming a substance abuse nurse is to join a nursing program.

To gain acceptance into the program students must complete the nursing school’s prerequisite requirements at a qualified college or university.

It takes approximately 1 – 2 years to complete the necessary prerequisites.

The prerequisite course length is determined by the student’s prior education and completed courses.

Students must also maintain a sufficient GPA to qualify for the program due to academic requirements and competition.

Some nursing programs are extremely competitive with limited seating available for qualified students.

As a result, nursing school candidates may apply to several colleges to maximize their acceptance odds.

Lastly, some nursing schools enable students to begin their application when they have one semester of prerequisites left.

It enables candidates to get a head start on their application and expedite the process.

2. Obtain a Nursing Degree

The next step to becoming a substance abuse nurse is to attend a two- or four-year nursing program.

This program educates students on the ins and outs of nursing and enables them to earn an ADN or BSN degree.

The two-year ADN degree establishes the fundamentals of nursing and enables students to quickly enter the field.

As a result, they can begin gaining work experience and earning an income relatively quickly.

Registered nurses with an ADN can continue their education to earn their BSN while working.

The four-year BSN degree provides nurses with a more comprehensive education.

Consequently, registered nurses with a BSN can pursue more advanced careers.

They can also earn higher incomes due to their additional education and training.

Most importantly, students may want to attend a program from an accredited school.

It ensures they receive adequate training, obtain loans/funding more easily, and minimize problems with transferring credits.

3. Pass the NCLEX-RN

After finishing nursing school, students must pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) develops the exam.

This examination tests the competencies of nursing school graduates to ensure they have sufficient training and knowledge.

It also allows nursing school graduates to obtain their nursing licenses and become registered nurses.

Qualified nursing students who fail the exam may retake it after a period to obtain their licensure.

4. Acquire Work Experience

Registered nurses must obtain 2,000 hours or up to three years of experience before taking the CARN certification exam.

It’s highly beneficial to look for job opportunities related to substance abuse to develop your understanding of the field.

Alternatively, registered nurses can acquire two years of experience working directly in substance abuse.

Registered nurses must also take 30 hours of continuing education courses in substance abuse and patient psychology.

The courses prepare nurses for the certification and equip them with vital skills to be successful substance abuse nurses.

5. Get Certified

After acquiring sufficient experience, registered nurses may take the certified addictions registered nurse certification exam (CARN).

The Addictions Nursing Certification Board offers the CARN examination to ensure nurses receive sufficient knowledge in substance abuse care.

It also enables them to demonstrate their expertise and knowledge to employers interested in hiring substance abuse nurses.