February 24, 2021
Cannabis Nursing: A New Dope Specialty

A cannabis nurse is a relatively new field in nursing. When I tell people I am a cannabis nurse they usually have no idea what that means. Let me explain.

A cannabis nurse is a relatively new field in nursing. When I tell people I am a cannabis nurse they usually have no idea what that means.

Let me explain. I have been a critical care nurse for 11 years at a top academic medical center. I took care of very sick people with rare and difficult to treat diagnoses. And patients who often were transitioning or receiving end of life care. They and their families would frequently ask about cannabis and they were met with little guidance and education by staff and physicians. As legalization for medical and recreational cannabis continues to become more widespread, doctors still aren’t dosing or guiding patients. Doctors only certify a condition to grant a patient access to medical cannabis—cannabis is not a prescribed substance. They cannot prescribe cannabis due to federal law that restricts it as a “schedule 1 substance” along with heroin and cocaine. Furthermore, many hospitals and healthcare corporations have policies that prohibit doctors from certifying patients and even discussing cannabis.

Cannabis Nursing: A New Dope Specialty

What happens to patients that would like to try or need cannabis for a variety of ailments is that doctors send these folks directly to the dispensary for dosing and advice. The problem is that employees at dispensaries may not have a clinical or healthcare background. And often they are often limited by corporate policy to end interactions after only 5 minutes. Budtenders are knowledgeable, caring, passionate, and know products and devices—but they are unaware of how to dose, potential drug interactions, and lack the formal education to assess and educate in the clinical context. Unfortunately, some companies and dispensaries are more nefarious. And their goal is to try and sell as much product as possible.

The cannabis nurse is the ideal solution to this predicament.

They serve as the bridge between the doctor, dispensary, and cannabis companies. Nurses have two vital skills that make us irreplaceable in healthcare: we have the ability to assess patients and to educate. We take complicated clinical information and break it down for the patient in understandable terms. We are also one of the most trusted professions in the world because we care. And we became nurses because we want to help people and love science.

A cannabis nurse may work in the dispensary, in product development, or have their own business. I am a cannabis nurse that owns my own consulting business acting as a resource for cannabis companies as an escalation to dosing specialist. And I see patients and provide cannabis education for physicians and healthcare systems. I assess patients and then provide a detailed care plan with product recommendations and dosing guidelines to help patients make the right choices for themselves. Furthermore, I provide education and on-call services for questions or concerns.  

I compare this work to what nurses do in the ICU. What makes the critical care nurse special is our ability and skill at making decisions and adjustments under the most stressful of circumstances such as the titration of medications needed for life support. The doctor writes the order for the medicine but it’s nursing who decides on the dose and changes it as the patient needs by titrating based on vital signs, our assessment, and the care goals.

Cannabis is similar.

Cannabis is a unique plant and substance. It has a biphasic dosing effect (which means it acts like a bell curve). Think of goldilocks—too little CBD and cannabis and you feel nothing, too much and you feel intense side effects but then get none of the therapeutic benefits. Dosing needs to be individualized based on a client’s metabolism, diet, weight, height, personality, how they react to medications, and what their goals are. I make recommendations and dosing guidelines, and then the patient and I choose what products for them to try.

My company offers personalized one on one consulting sessions to help you determine which cannabis products are right for you and what options may help you achieve your desired healthcare outcomes. A certified cannabis nurse provides complete assessments, educational guidance, a care plan, and practical support at your convenience at your home, at my office, or virtually.

In fact, cannabis nursing isn’t the first time nurses have created a field that doctors don’t have an immediate interest in. Nurses founded hospice care, wound care, and even anesthesia.

So why choose a cannabis nurse or utilize companies working with a cannabis nurse over other options?

That reason is simple: clinical experience and expert knowledge of health. A person acting as a cannabis consultant without healthcare resources does not have the tools to triage or assess comprehensively. They cannot discuss or educate on symptoms or disease processes and they cannot recommend when to escalate care to a physician. What’s great about Equilibria – they provide you with a dosage specialist with every product order and have immediate access to cannabis nurses like myself to help answer any questions they cannot.

It is great to have the support and someone to help guide members and patients on how to utilize their products and what dosages and times to begin with. This prevents any user error. Because the world of CBD is so new, clients need this kind of guidance and support to ensure they are set up to have success with CBD.  

Cannabis can be an amazing plant that can be life-changing for people dealing with things as simple as stress (Hey 2020!) to long term rare chronic illnesses. For cannabis to work it has to be used correctly and safely with the help of a cannabis nurse. Always consult your provider and a cannabis nurse when starting or changing cannabis products or regimens and always work with companies that partner and consult with healthcare professionals. Best of luck on your journey to wellness!

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This blog originally appeared on Equilibria Women.

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Rebecca Abraham RN, BSN

Acute on Chronic founder and President
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