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First Nurse Peer Advocate Training Hosted by NAN
Oregon Nurse Online Summer 2013 Edition
by Chris O’Neill, RN, DMin, WorkHealthy Oregon

On May 23, over a dozen professionals in a variety of roles convened for the first Nurse Peer Advocate training event at the ONA offices in Tualatin. They spent the morning learning details about the scope of substance use and mental health problems that afflict nurses, the resources available to support nurses in recovery, and the critical role of volunteers who assist their colleagues in engaging with and maintaining personal programs of recovery.

It was training with a twist. The governing committee of the Nurse Assistance Network (NAN) wanted a sounding board on key topics, so substantial time was reserved for discussion. The group listened to perspectives from recovering nurses, investigation and discipline staff at the Oregon State Board of Nursing, treatment professionals, an ONA labor representative, an administrator who has hired nurses in recovery, and Oregon Nurses Foundation board members. Everyone’s voice was heard and some of the training content was revised on the spot for future events.

We covered a lot of territory in three hours. Topics included: prevalence of substance use disorders in the profession; the number of nurses enrolled in discipline and alternative-to-discipline programs both nationally and in Oregon; the focus of monitoring on safe performance; the variety of agency roles and perspectives that intersect when a nurse is diagnosed with a substance use or mental disorder; mandatory reporting; the central importance of recovery for patient safety and the nurse’s career; the history and mission of NAN; return to work considerations; guidelines for volunteers who support nurses in early recovery; and resources that support recovery.

The participant evaluations revealed there is a preference for more time in a training event and more frequent events. Also, there was a preference for training events that invite stakeholders from multiple perspectives and separate events where people could share their recovery stories only. We interpret that as requesting different types of meetings, which is something that NAN can facilitate.

A summary of the evaluation surveys, indicated that overall satisfaction with the training was “very good” and participants were not hesitant to recommend changes for the future. We organized the comments, suggestions, and notes into five areas for attention in the near term and these will be presented at the next NAN committee meeting. They are: 1) differentiate the Nurse Peer Advocate role more clearly from other roles that connect with nurses in early recovery; 2) adjust the training itself for more time and more topics like the Americans with Disability Act and protections for recovery; 3) convene additional formal meetings to unpack the complex issues; 4) utilize existing conferences to provide education opportunities, for example, the ONA annual education conference, and; 5) develop an employer resource to navigate the complex issues around workplace substance use, recovery, monitoring, and licensing for nurses enrolled in monitoring.

By any measure, the first training for Nurse Peer Advocates was a success and there was a clear request for more opportunities to learn. That fits the NAN mission and is a reasonable expectation for nurses in Oregon.

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