International working group seeks to develop role of nurses at supervised drug consumption sites

The Harm Reduction Nurses Association (HRNA) is launching an international working group to develop a consensus statement on the role of nurses in supervised drug consumption sites, with a specific focus on the actual role, scope of practice, staffing, training, and support required.

Supervised consumption sites (SCS) have been implemented in Europe, North America and Australia, reaching a total of more than 100 sites. In addition to reducing harms and preventing overdoses and overdose deaths, SCS act as a point of service for people who use drugs to access much needed health care services.

Registered nurses who work in SCS provide the necessary care, support, education, and resources to reduce health risks associated with drug use and improve health. According to the HRNA, whose group will include nurses from Canada, Australia, France, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, and Scotland, it has been clearly established that these interventions fall within the legislated scope of practice of registered nurses but the actual role of nurses in SCS remains poorly defined and understood, especially by decision-makers and administrators.

Tim Gauthier, HRNA Vice-President, and Co-Chair of the International Working Group, said: “This work is pressing and timely, as more and more nurses are entering into nursing practice within supervised consumption. There is an immense responsibility on nurses in this setting, as majority of folks who access supervised consumption sites face many barriers in accessing other health and social services, even when their need for those services may be critical. For these reasons, it is essential that we better prepare nurses for these realities.”

Marilou Gagnon, PhD, Associate Professor in Nursing at the University of Victoria, HRNA President, Co-Chair of the International Working Group and key speaker at SDF’s August conference, said: “This is the first initiative of its kind in the world and we are excited to take on this important work in order to shape practice, policy and operational decisions in SCS”.

Scottish Drugs Forum’s Strategy Coordinator for Drug Death Prevention, Kirsten Horsburgh, is part of the group and will be able to input through her experiences on the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship and her work on the proposed safer drug consumption facility in Glasgow.

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