During the dual public health crises of opioid overdose and the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses are working in new ways with other health care providers, first responders, service groups, non-profit organizations, volunteers and others to provide care.
The provincial response to the overdose crisis is being led by a number of agencies, including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU). BCCSU is a provincially networked organization with a mandate to develop, help implement, and evaluate evidence-based approaches to substance use and addiction.
The pervasive nature of this overdose emergency means nurses working across the healthcare system may be encountering clients at risk of overdose. As part of efforts to support healthcare providers, BCCSU has a
24/7 Addiction Medicine Clinician Support Line. This phone line is staffed with addiction medicine experts from across the province who can provide telephone consultation to physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, and pharmacists to help improve the delivery of life-saving, evidence-based addiction care.
BCCSU provides additional guidance for prescribers and other healthcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic in
Risk mitigation in the context of dual public health emergencies. Nurses can also refer to the centre's opioid use disorder resources.
Overdoses can occur anywhere, creating unique challenges for health care providers. BCCDC has published a
protocol related to episodic overdose prevention. This protocol can be implemented by employers in a variety of settings to help manage and prevent episodic overdoses. Nurses can also refer to the agency's
harm reduction resources.
See Prescribing for opioid use disorder for a list of frequently asked questions and additional resources, including a resource related to consulting with or referring to other healthcare providers when prescribing for opioid use disorder (OUD).
It's important to remember that even in situations where nurses cannot provide optimal client care due to circumstances beyond their control (such as working limited resources, in an unfamiliar area, or with an increased client load), they can still meet BCCNM Standards of Practice. These situations are usually beyond a nurse's individual control and often require a systems approach for resolution. Work with your supervisor/manager to resolve the situation by proposing solutions that promote safe, ethical and competent care. Know where to find relevant resources.
Nurses are responsible for providing the best nursing care possible under the circumstances, setting priorities, using their critical thinking and professional judgment, communicating with their employer, and participating in efforts to improve client care. The Duty to Provide Care practice standard provides more information and guidance.
Working with limited resources