The Grayken Center at Boston Medical Center has launched an addiction nursing fellowship program to provide registered nurses with specialized training to care for patients with substance use and co-occurring disorders. Similar to an initiative in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, it is believed to be the first such fellowship program in the United States.
The program is directed by Jason Fox, MSN, RN, ANP-BC, CARN-AP, a nurse practitioner with BMC’s Addiction Consult. It was conceived to increase inpatient nurses’ understanding of SUD as a treatable chronic disease, develop a greater understanding of the role nurses can play in treating SUD, help nurses to recognize evidence of stigma, and build skills for working with SUD patients to address harm reduction strategies, Fox tells AP.
The fellowship last six months, with two participants per session. The first session began in September. Participants continue their normal work for 24 hours per week, and 12 hours each week are devoted to the fellowship—eight hours for participating in clinical experiential situations working with nurses and physicians who are caring for patients with SUD, and four hours for didactic learning opportunities.
“We’ve really tried to match the learning that week, whether it is reading journal articles or online modules about patients with acute or chronic pain,” Fox says. “Fellows are learning and also getting continuing education credits, which is great, because ultimately, the goal is for the nurse fellows to sit for the certified addiction nursing exam at the end of the fellowship. A lot of them working inpatient have met the professional hours required to sit for the exam, and we’re helping to get them the continuing education units in addiction-related fields or addiction medicine itself.”
For their clinical experiential hours, participants are working both with programs at BMC and in the community. In one week recently, for example, one participant was working with a nurse-led program at Boston Health Care for the Homeless, while the other was stationed at Project RESPECT, a high-risk obstetrical and addiction recovery program that cares for pregnant women. The participants have also worked with a methadone clinic in the area, Fox says.
Engaging with community sites and services has, at times, been challenging because of limits on outside guests that were enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Fox says his team is adapting and interest in the initiative is high.
“When I was first going from site to site to pitch the fellowship, I was overwhelmed with how much positive feedback we got about the fellowship itself and people’s interest, both internal and external,” Fox says. “Even in the midst of the early days of the pandemic when we were trying to get things restarted, people were overwhelmingly positive and supportive. It’s been great.”