Gretchen McNally Speaks to the Role of Oncology Nurses in the Opioid Epidemic

Gretchen McNally PhD, ANP-BC, AOCN, spotlights the value that naloxone training for oncology nurses and providers could have for patients who are at a high-risk of overdose.

Oncology nurses and advanced practice providers (APPs) are interested in learning about naloxone, says Gretchen McNally PhD, ANP-BC, AOCN.

McNally, who is a nurse practitioner in hematology at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC), recently shared findings from a single-center study at the 47th Oncology Nursing Society Congress. McNally and colleagues evaluated oncology provider’s knowledge and perception of naloxone and opioid use disorders.

Findings demonstrated that most respondents would be open to receiving training on naloxone and would feel comfortable administering naloxone with that training. For example, most nurses (64.2%; n = 309) and APPs (60.1%; n = 104) expressed interest in naloxone training classes.

Providing educational materials on opioid abuse and treatment strategies would position oncology nurses and APPs in a role to identify and address opioid use disorders in patients with cancer. Regarding the use of naloxone, McNally notes that although it is similar to a fire extinguisher in that it should only be used in emergencies, it is a great example of an opportunity to reduce harm to patients.

The insights gained through this study present an opportunity to develop innovative strategies to train health care providers and nurses, McNally says. These professionals can also take the skills learned in the clinic setting and bring them to the wider community, McNally adds.

“As an oncology nurse or provider, you [may] not really think that addiction affects your patients, [but] it affects so many people, and if we can just make a small difference and save 1 life, we’re making an impact.”