Travel Nurses and the Opioid Epidemic

What Travel Nurses Should consider with Opioids

Lately, the medical industry and everyone involved in it seems to have one thing on their minds: The opioid epidemic. It’s understandable, really, with 40 Americans dying every day after they experience an overdose. From pain pills that are prescribed four times more frequently in the last twenty years to the use of street drugs like heroin, residents of the United States don’t know how to tackle the problem.

Despite the overwhelming problem with addiction, it’s important for travel nurses to remember that opioids are also misused and mis-prescribed frequently. While you can’t solve the opioid problem single-handedly, as a worker in the healthcare industry, you can still do your part. To help us through the difficult decisions that face those in the field of medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new recommendations that involve the prescribing of opioid/narcotics.

Traveling nurses may not have the ability to prescribe or withhold medicine; however, you can do your part by getting a good understanding of medicines and the doses, routes, and rates recommended by the CDC. Listed below are four tips to help you be the best travel nurse possible in the midst of the opioid epidemic.

Familiarize Yourself with Your New Unit
Since being a travel nurse means you are never in one place for long, it can be difficult for us to get used to the procedures and practices that are used in each unit. Rather than simply focusing on what you learned about opioids in the past, take a little time to familiarize yourself with your new location and how things are practiced in that area. Depending on the unit, you may find yourself needing to do basic things like calculating drip rates for pumps. If you don’t take the time to learn, your patients may suffer!

Use Resources to Know Your Limits
As a nurse, you are taking the safety and well-being of each patient into your own hands whenever you give them a medicine. If something seems unusual or unsafe, don’t be shy about talking to someone else. Also, feel free to take advantage of drug books and other reference materials that can help you understand the safety of the medication. Always understand your maximum, normal, and safe ranges on all opioids!

Look Out for Alcohol Use
It is also vital for travel nurses and everyone within the healthcare industry to be alert of intoxication and alcohol and cannabis consumption. Many pain medications can be deadly when mixed with alcohol. If you suspect that one of your patients has been drinking, make sure to talk to someone else about your concerns before you begin to give them any opioids.

Ask Questions!
Be sure to ask questions if you have any concerns or uncertainty about anything involving medicine. While you might feel ignorant to ask basic questions, it is well worth the humiliation. Being a travel nurse is an important job and you can’t be replaced! You need to appreciate your position and be proud of the work that you do; however, you should never let that pride put your patients at risk. Sometimes, it is necessary to step back and admit that you do not know it all. This is where books, resources, and asking questions comes in handy. Be sure to ask, ask, ask until you know exactly how to best care for your patients!

Health care is an important industry; however, before solving problems we must focus on first doing no harm. You can do your part to help others by taking all the necessary steps to properly use opioid medications.