A meet-up group comprised of vocational, registered nurses and nurse practitioners interested in training and expanding their knowledge of treatments for medical marijuana patients has started to meet in Mendocino County in the hope of creating an official local chapter of a national non-profit dedicated to advancing cannabis nursing practices throughout the state.
“The American Cannabis Nurses Association desperately is reaching out,” registered nurse Janice Cinek said. “They are wanting to get nurses certified in cannabis nursing. What they want to do is get nurses credentialed in order to create a subspecialty of nursing, which does not exist right now.”
The first informational meet-up took place at the Willits Library Nov. 16 and was attended by a group of more than a dozen retired and active RNs. Cinek said the meetings are just starting in California, which will eventually become chapter meetings for the organization. Sacramento and San Francisco are the other two cities where nurses with the same goal are actively meeting.
“I started this process months ago of trying to contact them and getting it here because I knew our nurses could not get down to San Francisco,” she said. “Just recently we were allowed to create a meet-up here, but actually they are looking at this process happening nationwide because the topic of cannabis at all levels is extremely dynamic right now.”
Based out of New Jersey and officially organized as a non-profit 501 (C)3 in Oregon, ACNA emerged from a national conference on cannabis therapeutics in Santa Barbara 10 years ago and has since grown to close to 20 states nationwide including Arizona, Colorado, Illinois and California.
Cinek has been a registered nurse for 36 years with a focus on intensive care and home health and hospice care. She said those are both areas of seeing people in a tremendous amount of suffering and pain and she dedicates herself to helping others find relief.
She said the local chapter will happen in two to three years, once nurses are credentialed to work with this special sub-category of health care. She said it takes time because the American Nurses Association oversees the process of getting the chapter going and getting the nurses certified, and like all bureaucracies, it is a time-consuming and complex process.
One main goal according to Cinek, is to get nurses to complete the association’s online education, and as meetings continue to happen, they hope to bring in people from the industry to talk to them about all facets of cannabis, with an eye towards more research and education.
The ACNA provides the first comprehensive online cannabis curriculum for nurses’ education. Cinek said local nurses hope to use the certification and education for a single purpose.
“I would say it’s trying to get people get their symptoms under control, having them try to get comfortable in their bodies,” she said. “We are finding out more and more that we have the same endo-cannabinoid system as the cannabis plant, we are one and the same so it needs to be available to us as opposed to taking pain medications which are chemicals made in labs.”
Certification of participating nurses and health care practitioners is the first step, after which the group hopes to reach out and network with cannabis industry professionals like herbalists and growers.
“We’d like to talk to, interface with the growers,” she said. “Interface with the people in the dispensaries and interface with the local doctors. It’s about trying to make these connections and bridge with many entities that are part of this industry.”
One obstacle facing the group’s certification and organized efforts is the stigma which has been associated with marijuana and its categorization as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Although most nurses recognize that since medical marijuana became a viable legal option, the perceptions have been slowly changing, Cinek said there is still a risk involved until cannabis becomes more accepted as an alternative to other drugs.
“We are licensed by the state, we have to be careful that we don’t get ourselves in a situation that is going to jeopardize our license,” Cenik said. “That’s very important for us. We are seen as the bridge between a medical doctor and the patient, we are first and foremost the patient advocate.”
Karen Scott, vice president of patient care at Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits said registered nurses at the facility would not be participating in any cannabis patient care certification program.
“There is no official policy,” she said. “But it’s not something we would not participate in.”
Upcoming meetings for the organization in Mendocino County will be announced, and nurses and nurse practitioners interested in more information can contact Cenik via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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