Nursing in New Jersey

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I could use a second opinion. I’m a college senior expected to graduate in May with a degree in nursing. I’ve been accepted into graduate school in New Jersey for my Master of Science in Nursing. I plan to become a nurse practitioner immediately after that.

While I’m very excited about continuing my education and moving to a new place, I’m also worried because of a conversation last week. One of my close friends is from New Jersey and her dad is a physician there. He also happens to be an adjunct professor at my future grad school.

According to her, many of the nursing practicums are held at drug rehab centers for heroin addicts. I had originally thought that my first patient interactions would be in a hospital setting. I don’t know anything about illicit drugs nor do I like the idea of interacting with potentially aggressive drug addicts.

My dad said I was overreacting, but my mom expressed some minor concern. Should I let this get under my skin?

While some your concerns might be warranted, it’s important to keep an open mind, especially if you plan to work successfully in healthcare. You should also take a moment to consider the greater context. The opioid epidemic isn’t isolated exclusively in New Jersey; it’s a widespread national crisis with devastating consequences. Countless families and friends are haplessly embroiled in the emotional and psychological turmoil that accompanies drug addiction. Any opportunity to help alleviate those ails shouldn’t be dismissed so lightly.

In 2016, experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Many practitioners in the medical community are under the impression that those fatalities are mostly preventable. It should come as no surprise that rehabilitation centers are essential to overdose prevention and long-term recovery. Make no mistake, though: working at a rehab facility isn’t a stroll in the park.

You can surely find horror stories about working in a rehab center likely to only reinforce your existing assumptions, but no two experiences are the same. The best advice is to reflect on the characteristics necessary for working in drug rehab. This has a lot more to do with cultivating an appropriate mindset. The author cautions readers that most public health workers either become too emotionally involved or too detached to perform their duties effectively.

Expecting the patient interactions to be disturbing or hostile will only jade your perspective. It’s also important to remember that opioids constitute a sizable category of drugs (e.g., codeine, Percocet, Vicodin, methadone, heroin, etc.). You don’t necessarily know what drugs a patient has a history of abusing or why. For instance, some patients are being treated for dual diagnosis, which often means that the substance abuse and dependency is linked to an existing mental disorder (i.e., social anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, etc.). People suffering from these conditions are often more likely to be reclusive and withdrawn, rather than outwardly aggressive.

This is all to say that it’s impossible to make an informed decision from afar. Approaching this as a valuable first-hand learning experience is the soundest strategy.

“I attribute my success to this–I never gave or took any excuse.” — Florence Nightingale

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