Cannabis Nurses: A Vital Resource for Seniors

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It just makes sense. Nurses are born caregivers. Helping others is their vocation and avocation. And, cannabis provides another weapon in the medical bags. Nurses specializing in cannabis care are multiplying enough the create an American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA).

No one is willing to award certification, but Forbes reports, ”The National Council of State Boards of Nursing has issued the National Nursing Guidelines for Medical Marijuana, for nurses who are caring for patients who are using cannabis. The guidelines call on nurses to possess a comprehensive understanding of their local medical marijuana legislation and programs, the relevant science, research and safety considerations, and the need to remain non-judgmental over a patient’s cannabis use.” But ACNA advocates for full recognition of their work as a specialty.

What’s a Cannabis Nurse do?

Cannabis remains a controlled substance under FDA policy and practice. So, nurses cannot handle or administer marijuana. They may aid in the administration of the approved cannabis-based pharmaceuticals: Marinol (dronabinol), Syndros (liquid dronabinol), and Cesamate (nabilone).

  • Marinol treats loss of appetite (anorexia) in people with AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) who have lost weight. It is also prescribed for those suffering from nausea and vomiting from anti-cancer medicine (chemotherapy) in people whose nausea and vomiting where the usual anti-nausea medicines have proven ineffective.
  • Syndros treats the same issues with the added convenience of being orally administered.
  • Cesamet “has central nervous system activity. It produces relaxation, drowsiness, and euphoria in the recommended dosage range. Tolerance to these effects develops rapidly and is readily reversible.” Like Marinol and Syndros, it treats nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy when other options have failed.

Victims of these medical problems may be very senior or in hospice care. So, these nurses can explain and educate patients in the use, dosage, benefits, and side effects. They can observe administration and results as well as oversee titration where necessary.  And, because such patients are likely taking a regimen of other pharmaceuticals, Cannabis Nurses will monitor and respond to adverse drug interactions.

What Cannabis Nurses do across the country!

Cannabis Nurses do not yet have a career path, but their specialty does prepare them for certain markets. The pharmaceuticals mentioned above are legal in every state, but the occasion for their use is narrow. People in need of these treatments are in serious straits. They would be found in veteran’s hospitals, oncology centers, or HIV/AIDS treatment facilities.

Most of these patients need individualized care to address symptoms making them very uncomfortable in addition to their basic health battles. For example, nausea and vomiting can undercut or undo other therapies. If they are facing their last days, they may prefer treatment at home or in hospice care.

Cannabis Nurses may be sent into assisted care living, nursing homes, and critical care environments to deliver, dose, and oversee treatment with these drugs anywhere it does not violate other local or state prohibition.

What Cannabis Nurses do where permitted!

Nursing conventions are uncertain how to rule on Cannabis Nurses providing care in states where medical marijuana has been approved. All nurses have a “do no harm” ethos, so recommending their authority to treat with cannabis other than the named derivatives here is a problem.

We do not have medical certainty linking specific cannabis strains with specific medical diagnosis let alone the recommended dosing. Medical professionals are reluctant to stake their futures on anecdotal history, even when the history is thousands of years old. Nurses would be under the same caution as they would in recommending herbal or home remedies.

Ethics prohibits them from recommending specific branded products or a named medical dispensary. They would also be constrained from recommending smoking.

However, where medical marijuana is legal and where physicians have built their practice on being green-friendly, they may have a doctor’s office role. You may find such practices in urban areas or retirement areas. Such medical practices can be shady cons, but they can also provide great benefits in a professional environment where cannabis is considered as part of a therapeutic response to some conditions. Some doctors are professionally convinced cannabis has anti-anxiolytic, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-spastic properties. They are willing to combine pharmaceutical treatments with cannabis if there is relief, and they may introduce cannabis where other medications have failed. Cannabis Nurses would fill the usual nursing duties in such offices.

What Cannabis Nurses do where cannabis is not permitted!

In states where cannabis medical or otherwise is not legal, Cannabis Nurses still have a role to play. Nurses well-educated in the botany and chemistry of marijuana are well-positioned to educate and inform. They could be great resources for youth centers, drug rehab facilities, and/or PTSD support groups. For these citizens, their measured, informed, and clinical approach can be a calming expert witness to options in the given situation.

As interest increases in Cannabis Nurses and their value, “the ACNA also provides is a safe and supportive forum for nurses who are afraid to discuss cannabis within their state and their health care organizations. The ACNA provides them with position papers they can bring to their states, as well as brochures and other educational materials.”  It’s clearly a career with potential!