Future nurses are adding one more tool to their “life-saving capabilities” after taking part in the first-ever Naloxone Administration and Harm Reduction training program.
“I’d like to have the knowledge that I am certified in this and I know how to do it, so I can go into any situation with real confidence,” said Leanne Ingram, a nursing student.
The session was organized by students and led by harm reduction experts who work for the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
The aim was to educate students about the widespread opioid overdose crisis in Canada and train them in life-saving, harm reduction methods and resources, such as take-home naloxone kits.
“There were an estimated 4,000 deaths from opioid toxicity last year in Canada (and) at least 66 here in Nova Scotia in 2017. This is something that we need a very broad social and health response to, but the very first action is to keep people alive through naloxone,” Martha Paynter said, a PhD nursing student at Dalhousie.
WATCH: Nova Scotia opioid use, overdose framework includes free naloxone access
This January, changes were announced to the Registered Nurses and the Licensed Practical Nurses Act in Nova Scotia.
Those changes enable RNs and LPs to administer naloxone from take-home kits to clients in need, under their own authority.
“Now naloxone is actually something that anyone in our society can administer when it’s needed, but this change in the legislation really confirms our responsibility as nurses, to be on the front lines of responding to the opioid crisis,” Paynter said.
Medical field professionals believe another key part of the messaging behind harm-reduction is recognizing the role stigma plays in preventing people from seeking help or calling 911 in overdose situations.
“All of us are at risk of developing substance use disorder,” Paynter said. “This is something for which no one deserves to be ashamed.”
According to Health Canada, 2,861 people died from apparent-opioid related deaths in 2016. That number continued to rise in 2017.
In the first six months of last year, over 1,400 people died as a result of overdoses related to opioids.