Nursing Career Profile: Psychiatric Nursing for Substance Abuse

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Where the jobs are:

Psych mental health nurses who specialize in substance abuse provide nursing care in outpatient and inpatient facilities devoted to helping patients recover from drug or alcohol addiction. These facilities are available both to adults and to adolescents as well as older adults, most often in units segregated by age and sometimes by gender. Nurses may also work in facilities that provide very specialized substance abuse treatment, such as methadone clinics that treat opiate addiction with replacement therapy. Many substance abuse treatment centers have specialized treatment units for patients who are considered dually diagnosed, that is, patients with a diagnosis of addiction and at least one co-ocurring mental illness.

Job characteristics and specialized responsibilities:

Nurses who work in inpatient substance abuse treatment centers where detoxification services are provided might be caring for patients with high physical acuity. This is especially the case in facilities where patients are treated for alcoholism or benzodiazepine addiction, as withdrawal from both these substances can result in seizures and even life threatening seizure activity. Nurses who provide nursing care in post detox treatment centers may be more involved in medication administration and psychosocial and biological assessments while also providing patient support in the form of groups or one on one counseling.

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