Nurses at St. Paul’s Hospital and Mount Saint Joseph Hospital now provide take-home naloxone kits to acute-care patients

Dec 8, 2016 | News

A little over a month ago, St. Paul’s Hospital and Mount Sant Joseph Hospital broke important new ground in the fight against opioid overdoses with a new program that lets nurses dispense Take Home Naloxone kits to acute-care patients under their care.

What’s significant is that nurses (RN’s and RPNs) can now dispense the take-home kits without a physician’s order. “This means nurses in acute care can now be participants in the frontline fight against Vancouver and BC’s overdose epidemic,” said Elyse Vani, Addiction Clinical Nurse Educator at St. Paul’s Urban Health Program, who oversaw the new program’s creation.

From the start of the year to the end of September, when acute-care nurses at the two Providence sites began dispensing the kits, 555 illicit drug overdose deaths occurred in British Columbia. That represents a 61-per-cent increase in deaths, compared to that same period in 2015. 

In April, British Columbia became Canada’s first province to declare a public health emergency amid a spike in drug overdoses and deaths.

The opioid-overdose reversing kits have been available for take-home use in St. Paul’s Emergency Department for a while, but nurses saw an opportunity in acute care, said Vani. She noted that a lot of acute-care patients at risk of opioid overdose are admitted with other health issues, and that’s an ideal time for nurses to talk to them about their personal risk and provide them with a kit.

“When patients are in the hospital, it’s a good time for nurses to bring up opioid-overdose awareness with them,” said Vani. “If they stop their substance use while they’re in hospital, they leave with a higher risk of overdosing because their tolerance levels have decreased. So providing them with the naloxone kit offers the chance to have a discussion around preventing or treating an overdose.”

To date, acute-care nurses have dispensed 80 naloxone kits, with the lion’s share being provided at St. Paul’s. 

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