What to Expect Working in a Methadone Clinic
While I was in school for practical nursing, I cannot recall ever hearing about positions that were available for LPN’s in addiction centers. When I worked in a methadone clinic, it opened my eyes to a whole new area of nursing. It’s a non-traditional, unique nursing occupation, which is appealing to some people.
Methadone in a controlled substance used to treat addiction. It is also prescribed for many patients outside of addiction facilities to treat pain. There is a high level of responsibility when handling any controlled substance but overall, an LPN position in a methadone clinic is a low-stress level job.
Working in a methadone clinic as an LPN is completely different than most LPN jobs. For starters, there is very little opportunity to learn or utilize skilled nursing techniques. For the most part, the clients you will be treating are healthy individuals. If they have other medical issues, they will have them treated by their own personal physician outside of the clinic. Clinical skills that you may use are: drawing blood, injections, EKG’s, vitals, urinalysis, sobriety testing, and the actual dosing of clients.
Another important nursing duty that you will perform is patient and/or family education. You will need to become a methadone expert. There are many different medications that someone should and should not take while on methadone, both over-the-counter and prescribed. Since some clients are under the care of a physician for a chronic or acute illness, it is extremely important to know what medications they are currently taking. Communication is crucial and every client needs to be informed of this.
It is also important to stay current with recent medical findings, news, and laws with methadone or addiction-related topics. This can help you better understand the treatment process, which helps your clients in their journey to recovery.
Typically, you will see each individual client every day. They come in each morning and follow the protocol for receiving their daily dose of methadone. Some clients are not required to come in every day. These clients meet certain standards, which abide to federal and state laws, and are eligible to receive doses to take at home. Therefor you will not see every individual each day.
Observation is extremely important when working in a methadone clinic. This is because some clients will come into the clinic impaired, or under the influence, of drugs and/or alcohol. Methadone is a highly dangerous drug itself and can be lethal, especially if it is combined with other substances. Assessing your clients is the single most important factor when working in a methadone clinic.
Like every nursing position, there is paperwork. Since methadone is a controlled substance, you will be responsible for maintaining and documenting everything that comes your way. Simple math skills are also extremely important in this type of position. Staying organized is a key factor to help you handle the lengthy amount of administrative duties.
More than likely, your work day will begin very early in the morning. On the plus side, it is more likely to end early too. There are full-time and part-time positions along with weekend and holiday rotations. You are most likely going to work in a small area with the same team of nurses every day. Because of this, it is very important to maintain good relationships with your co-workers and truly work as a team.
Personally, I enjoyed my time spent working at a methadone clinic. It opened my eyes to the huge problem that our country has with addiction. If you are looking for LPN job that doesn't require much “hands on” nursing, you may want to consider working in the addiction field.