Skip to main content

Rounds With Leadership: On the Front Line of the Opioid Crisis

Published May 29, 2019

Welcome to Rounds with Leadership, a forum for AACN’s Board Chair and President/CEO to offer commentary on issues and trends impacting academic nursing.

May 29, 2019 - On the Front Line of the Opioid Crisis

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more Americans die each year from drug overdoses than in motor vehicle accidents, and the majority of those overdoses involve prescription medications. On closer inspection, the number of opioid-related deaths in the U.S. from both prescription and illegal drugs has quadrupled in the last 20 years. At present, 130 people die each day from opioid overdose. 

As the largest segment of the healthcare workforce, nurses play a critical role in treating and counseling individuals suffering from drug addiction. Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), including Nurse Practitioners – the third largest opioid-prescribing group for individuals with Medicare Part D according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services – are committed to adopting responsible prescribing practices using guidelines advanced by the CDC.

Academic nursing is rallying to protect the public's health by taking decisive action to address the opioid epidemic. Working initially in coordination with the White House, AACN has led the national effort to enhance the education of students in APRN programs on safe prescribing practices. Since 2015, more than 200 schools of nursing with APRN programs have pledged to educate their students on the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain. The addition of this content complements the information APRN students currently receive on such topics as pain management and substance abuse.

Earlier this month, AACN joined with more than 100 healthcare, higher education, and community-based organizations to support the National Academy of Medicine’s Action Collaborative on Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic. Recognizing the need for a coordinated, multi-sectoral response to address opioid misuse, the participating organizations are working together to develop collective solutions and advance those with the most potential to stem this grave public health issue.

As part of our commitment to this initiative, AACN is asking member institutions to pledge their support for addressing the opioid crisis and share details about what they are doing at the local level to address this concern. Schools pledging support will be highlighted on the AACN Web site and receive regular updates on the work of the Action Collaborative. 

We encourage all nursing schools – not only those schools with APRN programs – to pledge their support online by June 15, 2019. Together we can make a real difference in addressing this threat to our nation’s health while identifying and advancing evidence-based strategies to reverse the opioid epidemic.