In rural environments, there are not many ways for a person addicted to drugs to get the help they need. Access is a huge problem for a public health crisis that reaches almost every corner of America. Inpatient treatment programs are often hours away, and there is a waitlist to be accepted. And now, more than ever, people are getting clean in place. Nurse practitioners are usually the ones who help people in these rural places find a treatment program (in the age of Corona; it’s now mostly online) and stay sober through lifesaving Medication-Assisted Treatment.

Nurse Practitioners in Oregon

A recent study shows how valuable education is for nurse practitioners who are on the frontlines of healthcare in rural spaces. Treatment centers are few and far between in Oregon’s outskirts, where some towns don’t have healthcare at all. In Oregon, they have been looking at the numbers to find the role that Nurse Practitioners play is essential to patients outside of city limits.

Nurse practitioners are one of the few healthcare providers in some far-flung areas. Medication-assisted treatment is also the gateway to getting sober for many people who don’t have many options. Alongside 12-step meetings and/or therapy, it can help somebody achieve long-term sobriety.

Increased Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment

In 2017, NP’s in Oregon got the legal go-ahead to use buprenorphine in the course of drug and alcohol treatment. The drug, also known under the brand name Suboclade, is a Medication-Assisted Treatment that helps reduce cravings and withdrawal for people who want to get and stay clean and sober. It is administered by injection just once a month by a healthcare practitioner.

Nurse Practitioners were most likely to prescribe the drug to their clients and, unlike doctors, were not hesitant to use it to help their patients. According to the report, this was an immediate impact on people in regions or counties with six or fewer people per square mile.

The Impact of Nurse Practitioners

The author of the study, Tracy Klein, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Washington State University College of Nursing-Vancouver.

She says her study “offers a good opportunity to look at whether changing a law has an impact on patient care,” especially in little-studied frontier areas with just a sprinkling of people per square miles.

“This is one of the few studies that’s really looked at the impact of nurse practitioners in frontier areas. Most studies look at urban versus rural, but it’s important to consider frontier areas that are even more isolated and underserved, and the contribution nurse practitioners make to this very important aspect of health care,” she said of the research.