Nurses for Supervised Injection Services
Supervised injection services are health-care services for people who inject drugs. These services can be provided in a specific location (a supervised injection site) or through a mobile unit. There are more than 90 supervised injection sites in the world. Canada currently has two.
The main goal of supervised injection services is to provide people with a safe space to inject their own drugs in the presence of a registered nurse and a peer worker (someone who has experience using drugs). People who use these services have access to sterile equipment as well as care, support, education and resources.
Supervised injection services work. They reduce health risks associated with injection drug use, prevent disease and death, and improve health. They also reduce health-care service use and costs.
What is the role of registered nurses in supervised injection sites or units?
It has been clearly established that the care provided in supervised injection sites or mobile units falls within the legislated scope of practice of registered nurses. Nurses work directly with clients by establishing a rapport, assessing their level of knowledge and understanding of potential harms associated with injection drug use, providing harm reduction education, ensuring access to clean supplies, preventing risky injection practices, monitoring for signs of drug overdose or anaphylaxis, and intervening in emergency situations. They provide primary care to clients and act as a first point of contact with the health-care system. Primary care services include immunization, point of care HIV testing, acute or chronic wound care, screening for sexually transmitted infections and blood-borne infections (Hepatitis C), and counseling. Based on their assessment, nurses can refer clients to addiction services (including opiate substitution treatment) and connect them to essential services (i.e. housing, income assistance, food support).
Canadian nurses have been strong supporters of supervised injection services. In 2011, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, the Association of Registered Nurses of B.C. and the British Columbia Nurses' Union intervened at the Supreme Court of Canada in the Insite case. Insite is the first supervised injection site in Canada. Between 2013 and 2015, the Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Association of Nurses in HIV/AIDS Care undertook a variety of actions to oppose Bill C-2 – a bill that creates barriers to the implementation of supervised injection services. This bill has since become a law.
In 2015, the Coalition of Nurses and Nursing Students for Supervised Injection Services was launched. The goal of the coalition is to bring together nurses and nursing students who support the full recognition and implementation of supervised injection services as health-care services for people who use drugs in Canada. Members of the coalition are committed to:
Raising awareness on SIS among the nursing community and the general public
Advocating for the implementation of SIS as part of a harm reduction framework
Supporting the coalition by mobilizing support and participating in activities
Please note that the membership form is no longer active because the Coalition will end in September 2017. Its work will be part of the newly created Harm Reduction Nurses Association. Stay tuned for more info !