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On September 13, 2015, during the Miss America pageant, the Country watched while Miss Colorado, Kelley Johnson, defied stereotypes when she donned her scrubs and stethoscope during the talent portion of the competition to deliver a powerful and insightful monologue about being “Just a nurse.”

She spoke of her patient, Joe, who had Alzheimer’s and suffered from night terrors. He often asked Nurse Kelley if she could adjust his medications, but she replied that she couldn’t because she was “just a nurse.” Kelley revealed that one evening Joe was having a particularly difficult time dealing with his symptoms, diagnosis and slipping memories. Kelley encouraged comfort for Joe by telling him he wasn’t just Alzheimer’s. She reminded him that he was a person with a family and that he shouldn’t define himself by his condition. Surprisingly, Joe flipped the script on Kelley by reminding her that she also wasn’t “just a nurse.”

While appearing on the Ellen DeGeneres show, Kelley explained, “My talent is taking care of people and caring about other people. And so I wanted to give the nurses that don’t have that voice, that voice, and that recognition of just somebody going up there and just being a little different and unique.”

Every day, more nurses across the world are learning about the Endocannabinoid System and the benefits and safety profile of Cannabinoid Therapeutics.  Nurses are standing up, using their voice, and are “just being a little bit different and unique.” As Cannabis Nursing gains momentum and credibility, nurses recognize from a new perspective what the American Nurses Association (ANA) meant in 1995 when the organization launched the campaign “Every Patient Deserves a Nurse.”

At the writing of this article, Medical Cannabis laws exist in 41 US States, Districts, or Territories (23 States, District of Columbia, 2 Territories, 15 States- CBD Only). Over the Counter (OTC) access is available to adults 21 or older in 4 States, with even more on the ballot for 2016. The role of Nurses is very important during this fast-moving Revolution in HealTHCare. With more than 75% of States allowing certain patients to choose and safely access cannabis medicine, nurses are sure to encounter “Cannabis Patients” within our nursing practice.

What should nurses know about Cannabis Patients?

It’s important to remember that these patients aren’t “just a cannabis patient.” Cannabis patients can be pediatric, geriatric, psychiatric, oncology, neurology patients, or anyone in between. Many patients have been suffering from chronic debilitating conditions, and have tried nearly everything that conventional medicine had to offer. These patients have turned to Cannabinoid therapy as an alternative, complementary, or last resort option. If a patient dares to disclose that they are using cannabis as an option, nurses need to have the courage and knowledge to provide appropriate care, support, and documentation.

  1. Is the patient a legal patient in a State program?
  2. Ask to review legal State-issued Medical Cannabis Program card or paperwork.
  3. Does the patient have availability to access medicinal grade cannabis products safely?
  4. Ask which local dispensary the patient uses. Recognize that “dispensaries” are the functional equivalent to “pharmacies,” and it’s important to know that patients can legally & safely access cannabis medicine from one of these legal sources.
  5. Which methods of administration (MOA) are being used to support the patient’s Endocannabinoid System?
  6. Dispensaries provide multiple products that can be administered by various methods. Inhaled, Oral, Sublingual, Topical, Transdermal, and Rectal methods are currently available to most medical cannabis patients.
  7. Understanding the mechanism of action regarding each method of administration is important for nurses to understand.
  8. What benefits are being experienced by the patient as a result of Cannabinoid therapy?
  9. Patients and caregivers provide valuable assessment information regarding cannabinoid therapeutics for nurses and physicians.
  10. It is not uncommon for cannabis patients to request assistance from their medical provider to safely reduce or discontinue certain pharmaceutical medications.
  11. It’s important to always encourage patients to work with their physician while titrating down medications.

If you learn nothing else from this article, please remember this… Patients who use Cannabinoid Therapeutics are more than “just a cannabis patient,” and nurses who care for these patients are more than “just a nurse.”

We are Cannabis Nurses; caring, compassionate, and intelligent Nurses who deeply understand that EVERY patient deserves a Nurse.

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