According to the CDC, the increasing instances of opioids being prescribed has almost quadrupled since 1999 and they are a major factor in a 15-year increase in deaths from opioids.
The skyrocketing opioid addiction levels have also helped fuel drug theft, reaching into almost every corner of our society. Unfortunately, nursing homes are among those places where painkillers remain too easy to get hold of, especially for nurses and physicians. You may have read recently about the nurse who allegedly stole 9,700 painkillers from a nursing home in Iowa.
Nurses are in the unique position of managing and dispensing pain killers and other addictive opioids in hospitals and nursing homes throughout the U.S. Their easy access to these drugs has also increased the levels of opioid addiction in the nursing population.
What is being done to reduce these troubling trends?
Here are a few areas where positive changes are being made to proactively tackle this multi-layered problem:
- Education: Many nursing programs are being revamped to increase awareness for nursing students early on in their education process. They aim to help young nurses understand the use of opioid and the legal repercussions of illegally distributing them as well as their addictive nature. The goal is to teach nurses and other medical staff how to better manage their exposure to these drugs.
- Support: The increasing shortage of nurses has put a greater physical and emotional burden on those who are being expected to work longer hours and care for more patients. Many hospitals and skilled nursing facilities are taking steps to better recognize the signs of nurse fatigue and establish programs to ensure that nurses receive regular breaks and time off to re-charge and regain their emotional and physical equilibrium.
- Automation: Streamlining and automating the process of medications ordering, fulfillment, processing and dispensation takes the stress of medications passing off the backs of already over-burdened nurses. It also makes it much more difficult for a nurse to artificially alter prescriptions and to claim missing or damaged pill waste. This can also impact the ability to steal drugs. Systems such as Talyst’s InSite® medications management and dispensary solution, makes the process of ordering, processing and dispensing medication virtually hands free and, most importantly, error free.
The skyrocketing opioid addiction problem in this country is not going to go away any time soon. Nor will the underground networks that provide the drugs illegally and drive theft. Fortunately, however, hospital and skilled nursing facility operators are taking positive actions to provide proactive programs that better educate and support their nursing staff and help them better manage their exposure to these powerful drugs.