FNHA Nurse Kate Hodgson is one of them
The first cohort of registered nurses (RNs) is on track to begin prescribing medications for treatment of opioid use disorder, as part of B.C.'s leading-edge overdose response plan.
“Nurse prescribing is a shared milestone for nurses, First Nations communities and people who use drugs," said Kate Hodgson, RN, Practice Consultant, Substance Use - Four Directions Team at the FNHA. “This B.C. initiative will directly improve access to life-saving medication and will create much-needed opportunities for nurses to support access to the full spectrum of substance use care for Indigenous rural and remote communities. The Nation-based health centre teams and FNHA community health nurses who have taken on nurse prescribing are creating innovative programs from a place of wellness, compassion and self-determination," added Hodgson.
Thirty RNs and registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs) will complete their training this month to prescribe buprenorphine/naloxone (commonly known as Suboxone), which is a first-line opioid agonist treatment (OAT) medication. This is the first step in a phased approach to expand RNs and RPNs' scope of practice to include prescribing addiction treatment medications. It represents a significant change in B.C.'s health-care system and an important move to better support people in under-served, rural and remote areas.
The approach is part of a new effort to prevent overdoses and deaths made possible by a public health order issued in September 2020 by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry granting nurses prescribing powers to treat substance use. Registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses are joining physicians, pharmacists and nurse practitioners as points of access for pharmaceutical alternatives to street drugs, a move experts say will benefit rural and remote communities in particular.
Working in small northern and interior First Nations communities scattered across hills and winding valleys, registered nurse Kate Hodgson says finding treatment options for people who use substances can be just as difficult as navigating the landscape itself.
“This can really save someone's life," said Hodgson. “Because in that moment, when we are having those pressing conversations with people, to be able to just offer it without having to get in the boat and row across the river and hike up the mountain, it's life-changing."