Substance use remains one of the public health issues attracting considerable attention from policymakers, healthcare professionals, non-profit organizations, and community members. The substance abuse rehabilitation industry in the USA is worth $42 billion each year (Research and Markets, 2020). Harm reduction is one of the approaches that are gaining momentum in modern American society due to its efficiency (O’Keefe et al., 2019). Harm reduction encompasses the focus on minimizing the harm that can be potentially caused by the unsafe use of drugs, including but not confined to infection, diverse disorders transmission, and death due to the overdose (Palumbo, 2019). It is noteworthy that harm reduction implies two major components – provision of care and absence of judgment (Palumbo, 2019). According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) (2018), harm reduction is becoming an indispensable element of substance user treatment, although many steps in that direction are yet to be undertaken. One of such steps is the implementation of harm reduction practices in each particular healthcare facility that can face diverse challenges, including the lack of resources and medical staff’s resistance to change.
Setting and the Nursing Team
Nurse practitioners play one of the central roles in the process of harm reduction practice implementation. These healthcare professionals provide care and support, as well as educate patients on safe practices, treatment options, as well as available resources (Kulikowski & Linder, 2018). It has been acknowledged that nurses have different views on disease and harm reduction (Dubois, 2017). Some nurse practitioners see substance use as a disorder that is to be treated, and treatment practices can take different forms, including programs that do not require the voluntary participation of an addict (NIH, 2018). However, a growing number of nurses have a positive attitude towards more liberal approaches such as harm reduction programs (Moreira et al., 2019). The implementation of effective harm reduction programs can benefit from the development of cross-functional teams that involve nurse leaders, intensive care nurses, psychiatric nurses, and home (or community-based) nurses.
As far as harm reduction programs are concerned, they mainly address several aspects. Some of the programs involve the provision of a safe environment for injection, which is instrumental in preventing death caused by overdose, as well as disease transmission (Kulikowski & Linder, 2018). However, these projects are rare in the USA due to the overall negative view of substance addiction in American society. Interventions encompassing needle exchange and the provision of syringes are significantly more common (Dubois, 2017; Kulikowski & Linder, 2018). One of the key components of all these projects is patient education as nurses provide educational services to substance users aimed at harm reduction as well as people’s motivation to shape their behavior (Palumbo, 2019). It has been acknowledged that such programs are effective, which is specifically apparent in interventions characterized by a considerable degree of community involvement (Kulikowski & Linder, 2018). Therefore, it is necessary to develop effective harm reduction community-based programs to improve public health in neighborhoods and the entire country.
Potential Roles of a Leader
The nurse leader can be the major advocate and agent of change who will contribute to the development and implementation of the harm reduction project in a particular healthcare facility. The nurse leader should offer an implementation of an existing or new harm reduction program to the healthcare facility’s administration using a model of change. The nurse leader should communicate with colleagues and different healthcare professionals to make them understand the urgency of the issue and the benefits of the suggested project (Palumbo, 2019). The nurse leader should also manage the work of the team and the implementation of the program. It is also critical to evaluate the outcomes of the program and its effectiveness.
Dealing with Conflict and Affecting Change
One of the roles of the nurse leader will also be managing conflict and addressing the resistance of involved professionals. For instance, the nurse leader will ensure that all members of the team communicate effectively using all available platforms and strategies. When a conflict occurs, it is pivotal to identify the reason for this clash and find ways to resolve it. The nurse leader, in this case, will be the mediator who will hear all arguments and help the conflicting people find common grounds. The management of conflict is one of the effective strategies leading to change as effectively resolved conflicts will reduce resistance to change. The nurse leader will become the major advocate for such programs in the community, and, eventually, people will be willing to contribute to the effective implementation of the project aimed at harm reduction.
On balance, it is necessary to note that nurses tend to be in the closest contact with patients and their close ones, so they can reach large audiences. These professionals understand patient needs and the value of harm reduction for patient outcomes, as well as public health. Hence, they can become the major agents of change and advocates for the development and implementation of a community-based harm reduction program, which, in its turn, will be instrumental in improving public health.
Dubois, T. M. (2017). Harm reduction. Journal of Addictions Nursing, 28(1), 42-42. Web.
Kulikowski, J., & Linder, E. (2018). Making the case for harm reduction programs for injection drug users. Nursing, 48(6), 46-51. Web.
Moreira, C. R., Soares, C. B., Campos, C. M. S., & Laranjo, T. H. M. (2019). Harm reduction: Trends being disputed in health policies. Revista Brasileira De Enfermagem, 72(suppl 3), 312-320. Web.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (third edition): Principles of effective treatment. Web.
O’Keefe, D., Bluthenthal, R. N., Kral, A. H., Aitken, C. K., McCormack, A., & Dietze, P. M. (2019). Measures of harm reduction service provision for people who inject drugs. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 97(9), 605-611. Web.
Palumbo, R. (2019). A call to action: Defining the acute care nurse’s role in harm reduction for persons with substance use disorder. Journal of Addictions Nursing, 30(4), 236-237. Web.
Research and Markets. The United States addiction rehab industry report 2020. Web.