Saving Lives of Patients Affected by Opioid Epidemic

Serena Natal, DNP 2017, Opioid Research
Serena Natal, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, earned her DNP degree at Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden in 2017

When Serena Natal saw how the opioid epidemic was devastating individuals and families in recent years, she knew she had to take action – and, in some situations, resort to using life-saving measures.

A psychiatric nurse practitioner, with a doctorate in nursing practice (DNP) from the Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden, Natal has worked with patients with drug- and alcohol-use disorders through most of her nearly 20-year career. Over the years, clients with an alcohol-use disorder remained constant, but she saw the use of other substances increase starting with crack cocaine. Then, more and more, it became opioids.

“Every week, I’ve encountered someone who was affected by an opioid overdose some way or somehow,” says Natal, “whether it was a client of mine, the family member of a client, or a staff member’s family member.”

While a nursing student at Rutgers–Camden from 2015-2017, Natal researched and created an educational intervention on implementation of opioid overdose management training in substance-abuse treatment facilities. Through her research, she created a guide that’s now used by the staff at halfway houses, residential treatment facilities, and outpatient treatment facilities that serve Camden County residents. The manual provides information about opioid overdose management and how to incorporate the education into treatment for clients with an opioid-use disorder.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more Americans die each year from drug overdoses than in motor vehicle accidents, and the majority of those overdoses involve prescription medications. In response to the national opioid crisis, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has increased its efforts to address the prescription drug abuse and heroin epidemic in the United States by partnering with more than 40 other healthcare provider groups to launch a national nursing education initiative among AACN's members and lending support to an important public awareness campaign.

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