The Duke School of Nursing is taking steps to promote the U.S. Surgeon General’s Turn The Tide Rx movement—a call to end the national opioid epidemic.

The School of Nursing will host a discussion March 6 on how emergency health care providers can unite against opioid abuse. Organized by students in the accelerated bachelor's of science in nursing program, the event is intended to be the first in a string of efforts to bring the national Turn The Tide Rx initiative home to North Carolina, with Duke as its home base. 

Launched by Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in August 2016, the effort calls for emergency providers to become educated on treating pain effectively without over-prescribing opioids. It also aims to teach health care practitioners how to direct those with opioid use disorders to different forms of treatment and to reduce the stigma surrounding opioid addiction.

Opioid addiction has become a major problem nationwide during the past 15 years. In 2016, approximately 91 people died per day in the U.S. as the result of an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Our vision at the School of Nursing for our ABSN program is to focus on 21st century health care needs and our environment," said Diane Uzarski, chief of staff for the dean of the School of Nursing. "We strive to prepare the next generation of transformational leaders in nursing."

She explained that he call to bring the movement to North Carolina—which students initiated on their own—aligns with the nursing school’s vision of focusing on nurturing transformational leaders.

"The dean was thrilled when the two students contacted her office to gather together emergency care providers in North Carolina to progress Turn The Tide Rx,” Uzarski said.

Those two students were Haley Harris-Bloom and Haley Gandsey, who are both ABSN students and members of Duke Emergency Nursing Students. After having seen those close to her affected by the opioid epidemic, Harris-Bloom organized the event along with Gandsey as a way to start a grassroots movement to spread awareness of the opioid epidemic and educate others on alternative pain management techniques.

“I think that nurses are in a really unique position to be agents of change here," Harris-Bloom said. "We have a different view on patients than most physicians do. That informs the way we treat patients." 

She noted that nurses strive to intervene on multiple levels and focus on the whole person, not just the symptoms.

Beyond preventing the over-prescription of opioid pain relievers, Harris-Bloom intends for the event next Monday to stir efforts to reduce the stigma surrounding opioid usage and addiction.

“We need to change the way we approach the opioid epidemic,” she said.

Margaret Carman, assistant professor of nursing, noted that her biggest hope for the event is that it establishes connections, enabling the School of Nursing to use Turn The Tide Rx for long-term change.

“The Turn The Tide Rx campaign requires interdisciplinary efforts—members of EMS, physicians, nurses, public safety agents and policy makers must come together if this is to become a progressive and impactful movement," Carman said. "Duke is hosting this event so that we can begin the conversations necessary to reducing opioid abuse in North Carolina and across the United States."