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Substance Abuse Nurse

Substance abuse nurses provide care to patients who have various substance abuse problems and addictions to alcohol or drugs. They administer doctor-prescribed medication to patients to aid them in their road to recovery. Substance abuse nurses serve as counselors and confidants to their patients, who may report to them and need their help to resist temptations. Because substance abuse nurses have a close relationship with their patients, they often help organize support groups and family meetings that will encourage the patient to stay sober and answer any questions they might have. Substance abuse nurses may work in clinics, hospitals, inpatient and outpatient treatment centers and mental health facilities, where they will treat patients with various addictions and psychological problems.

Substance abuse nurses have to be licensed registered nurses (RNs) first. They do so by earning an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing or completing a nursing diploma program, as well as passing the NCLEX-RN licensing examination. Once these steps have been met, nurses can explore substance abuse nursing certification and employment opportunities. Nurses can seek certification through the International Nurses Society on Addictions, in which they can become a Certified Addictions Registered Nurse. In order to be eligible to take this certification exam, nurses will need at least three years of experience as a practicing RN and minimum of 4,000 hours of nursing experience in addictions. While nurses learn a great deal about nursing techniques and substance dependencies, much of their learning and experience will take place on the job, working with patients of all backgrounds and various substance abuse problems.

As substance abuse problems continue to exist and patients continue to seek help, nurses will still be needed to provide care and counseling to addicts. With a high demand for their services, substance abuse nurses should expect to have favorable employment and salary outcomes. According to PayScale, substance abuse nurses made an average salary of $51,000 in 2009. In addition, substance abuse nurses receive many benefits of helping patients find freedom from their addictions and live healthy, sober lives.