Substance abuse nurses often referred to as addiction nurses, are RNs who specialize in the treatment and rehabilitation of patients who are addicted to alcohol, drugs, or other addictive substances. In addition to being trained in general medicine, substance abuse nurses are also trained in psychiatric nursing, which focuses primarily on a patient's mental health. Substance abuse nurses help to educate patients and their families and caregivers about the dangers of substance abuse. They also provide emotional support to patients along with their families or caregivers. You can find this kind of nurse working in many different settings which include primary care physicians' offices, psychiatric facilities, inpatient and outpatient drug rehab clinics, and methadone clinics.
Substance abuse nurses care for patients dealing with addiction in a variety of settings. These commonly include:
Becoming a substance abuse nurse requires a combination of education, certification, experience, and the drive to help others. Many who go into this field are passionate about serving the people in their communities and helping them find lasting success with their health. As new drug abuse epidemics sweep the nation, substance abuse nurses are valued healthcare providers on the frontlines of assistance.
Those who wish to eventually become substance abuse nurses must first complete an ADN or BSN degree. When they have passed the NCLEX-RN exam, they can then go on to become licensed as an RN. After becoming a fully licensed RN, prospective addiction nurses must complete at least 2,000 hours of clinical experience before applying to take the certification exam to become a Certified Addiction Registered Nurse.
In order to become certified as a substance abuse nurse, you must first complete an ADN or BSN program and then gain licensure as a registered nurse. In the case that you want to become an advanced practice addiction nurse after gaining licensure as an RN, you will need to go on to earn a master's degree in nursing (MSN) with a specialization in addiction nursing.
According to the International Nurses Society on Addiction (IntNSA), there are two main certifications that individuals can obtain in order to become a substance abuse nurse. One is for registered nurses and the other is for advanced practice nurses. Those with an RN license can become a Certified Addiction Registered Nurse (CARN). To achieve this certification, you must possess a current and unencumbered RN license, have 2,000 hours of nursing experience, have completed 30 hours of continuing education related to addiction nursing, and have passed the CARN exam. Those with advanced practice nursing degrees must have undergone 500 hours of supervised clinical experience related to addiction nursing. After gaining these hours they must pass the CARN-AP exam to gain advanced practice certification in addiction nursing.
Unfortunately, with the ‘opioid epidemic' in America, addiction is more common than ever. It's for this reason that the need for substance abuse nurses has continued to rise. Today, substance abuse nurses won't have trouble finding employment in the many rehab centers, hospitals, state facilities, and psychiatric facilities that require their expertise and experience.
As addiction rates rise across the United States, substance abuse nurses will continue to be in demand. According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary of a substance abuse nurse lands at around $55,754 annually. Salary figures will depend on the educational and certification levels of the nurse, the experience they have, and the organization that they're working for. Employment benefits will depend on the kind of organization a substance abuse nurse works for. However, most of these nurses who are employed full time will receive benefit packages that have comprehensive dental, medical, vision, prescription, and malpractice insurance coverage.