What Is An Addictions Nurse?
An addictions nurse, as the name would imply, assists in helping those who have drug and alcohol problems, as well as other addictions. This includes vast scope of addictions and duties, such as preventing addiction, helping to treat it and manage it, and a variety of addictions from gambling to eating disorders and even sex addictions.
An addictions nurse would usually be employed by a clinic or hospital and may have to perform duties such as promoting full recovery for patients, giving them therapy and counseling for their addictions, educating not just the patients, but also their families about addiction and how they can help those who are addicted and helping doctors with treating these problems.
An addictions nurse will usually work in a hospital, outpatient facility or a community centre and they will have to have some experience in dealing with mental problems, since this is the basis of addiction. This is not an easy job and the duties that an addictions nurse will have to perform will be tiring and emotionally draining. This is definitely a specialized field that not everyone can excel in.
Requirements To Become An Addictions Nurse
An addictions nurse needs a lot more training than a general nurse, since they are dealing not just with injuries of the body, but those of the mind too. They also have to deal with more than one addiction and other problems that someone in this type of care will be prone too. This requires certain personality traits, such as:
- Patience – an addictions nurse needs no end of patience, since they will be dealing with the same problems over and over again, and usually in the same person. As an addictions nurse, you will see patients get better and then fall back and it can sometimes be overwhelming to watch because these are people who simply have no control over their own lives. For an addictions nurse, patience and understanding is key.
- Organizational skills – as with any other type of nurse, organizational skills are vital, since you need to provide an environment of calm and order for those who have too much disorder in their lives.
- Be strict – one of the problems with addiction is that those who suffer from it often have no structure to their lives and their will power is so little that they can talk themselves into anything. As an addictions nurse, you will have to be very strict with patients and not allow them the disorder that could make them relapse. By setting a good example, an addictions nurse can help others model and structure their lives.
In terms of education, an addictions nurse must have studied to become an RN or registered nurse. Though you will not need any additional training to specialize in addictions, you can obtain an extra certification, that is, a Certified Addiction Registered Nursing qualification. Your first step in becoming an addictions nurse will be to study a bachelor’s degree in science. Any school that offers this qualification should accredited with a government body so that you can take the NCLEX exam once you have completed your studies. The NCLEX exam allows nurses to practice in the USA.
As an addictions nurse, you will also have to do training and log a certain amount of hours working with those battling addiction or in psychiatric treatment centers. This means you will be dealing with addictions such as:
- Alcohol and drug addiction – the most common forms of addiction; these are difficult to treat since they are physically addictive. You may have to help patients through symptoms of withdrawal and help them restructure their lives so that they can live in a way that is healthy and not destructive.
- Anorexia and bulimia – these two mental health issues are an addiction, since the person suffering from it has to deal with their need to control their food intake. Often, those who suffer from this addiction are young and female, and this means being empathetic to their needs and trying to understand what they are going through. Some who suffer from food addiction will also need help and support in emotionally disconnecting food from feelings.
- Addictions Nursing and sex addiction – this is very difficult addiction to treat, since it is so quickly destructive. Whereas an alcohol or drug addict may take years to reach a point where they are completely at rock bottom, someone with a sex addiction or gambling addiction will reach point quickly. These addictions are difficult to talk about, but for an addictions nurse, it is vital to know how to treat them.
- Miscellaneous addictions – in many cases, people get addicted to some very strange things, such as an addiction to thrill-seeking or an addiction to obsessive compulsive disorder. In all of these, there is a need for the addictions to nurse to deal with the addiction and help their patient.
How To Become An Addictions Nurse
Training to become an addictions nurse requires more than just education. It also involves getting clinical experience and learning on the job. To do this you will have complete a degree as an RN first, and this means going through many years of study and clinical practice. For information on where you can study, you can contact the International Nurses Society on Addictions. They will be able to provide reputable places to study and how to go about specializing in this field.
To earn your degree, you will need to spend a year as an RN and get 2 000 hours of experience. This may sound like a lot, but if you consider working a 40 hour week, it doesn’t actually translate to much and this can be completed relatively quickly. It is also important to attend conferences and seminars whenever you can and though this can be expensive, it is in your best interests in the long term. Once you have completed these requirements, you will have to take the Certified Addictions Nursing Exams. Once you pass these, you can work in an addictions facility, but you will have to renew you nursing license yearly.
There are many excellent nursing schools throughout the US and to find one, you should go online and use a search engine, adding in your area so that you can find a school near you. Schools will offer all manner of nursing information and will cover all fields, including dealing with addictions patients.
Online/Distance Education Programs
Many schools also offer programs online and though these are very convenient, it is good to check and see whether they are accredited. This is something that should be listed on the site and those who are looking for it should be able to find it quite easily. Pursuing an online or distance nursing program specializing in addictions is an excellent way of getting a degree if you are already working. For those who need to work in order to live, this may be the only way to get their degree. Also, for those already working in an addictions treatment facility, this is an excellent way to get the formal degree without having to sacrifice their work.
To become an addictions nurse, you will need more than just a piece of paper though. You will need:
- To check out your state’s guidelines for addictions nursing. Each state is different and while you may see the need to become involved with eating disorders in your state, the state may require that you become involved in drug addiction, which may be more prevalent where you live.
- Check the nursing curriculum to ensure that you know how to diagnose and treat addiction. Sometimes addiction is hidden and it may be harder to treat and deal with than you think. Those with experience will tell you that anyone who suffers from an addiction is excellent at hiding it, and this means that though you think someone may be cured, they may actually need a lot more help.
- As previously mentioned, you should try to attend as many lectures and courses as you can to cement your new knowledge and keep up with new technology in the addictions nursing field. What is also vital to note here is that an addictions nurse may need to go for regular counseling or therapy to ensure that they do not take on the problems of their patients. Because there is a lot of mental investment that goes into becoming a nurse in this field, it is recommended that certain procedures are followed.
- For those who wish to study further, a post graduate program is also a good idea and these are available online and in physical schools for those who wish to attend. This could also potentially mean more money for the nurse in the future.
- Volunteer while you are studying, or if you have extra time. Not only is this rewarding, but it also looks very good on your CV and you will be doing your part to help those in your community.
- Get to know what is going on in the world. Because of the ever-changing requirements of the field and the amount of new technology springing up, you will find that there is always a new theory and a new form of treatment. By keeping abreast of the news and of the latest developments, you can do your job better.
- Make sure you maintain your skills. It often happens that you get caught up in work and in your life, and this can lead to forgetting to renew your license or do more courses.
- Last but not least, check your insurance. Your insurance company will need to know that you work in a high risk environment. While you may not be worried about what could happen to you, dealing with those who suffer from a mental illness means you are more prone to having something go wrong. Be sure to inform your insurance company of what you do so that they can adjust your risk profile.
Job Outlook For Addictions Nurses
It is estimated that in the next ten years, the amount of nursing positions in the US will increase by 22%. This means that there will be a lot more job opportunities. Though it is sad to think that there will be more need for addictions nurses, simply because this means that there will be more people suffering from addictions, this does also mean that salaries will go up.
An average nursing salary is about $45 000 depending on the state in which you live and your level of experience. A certified addictions nurse at the top of his or her game can make up to $75 000 a year, though this comes with a management position and requires many years of experience.
An addictions nurse will start out with a relatively low salary when they are in their first job, but this will change depending on where they are employed and how long they have been working there.
Becoming an addictions nurse is not an easy task and this is because of the pure strength of mind and of character that is needed for this particular job. For those considering a career in this field, know that you will spend the rest of your life learning and may have to spend long periods on your feet. As well as being mentally strong, you will need a certain physical fortitude too, because of what the field involves, but to see people recovering from addiction is immensely rewarding and potentially, could really assist your community.
To become an addictions nurse, you need to have clear goals in mind. You need to know what you want to achieve and how you will work to achieve it. This will be a long process that involves a lot of work and a lot of late nights, but for those who manage it and manage themselves in this role, it can be very rewarding. Put in the long hard work to become an addictions nurse and you will reap the benefits.