Nurses in psychedelics, naturopaths who care for patients in unusual states of consciousness
“It starts with trust,” said Andrew Penn, nurse and adjunct clinical professor at UC San Francisco’s School of Nursing.
Penn describes how nurses can have natural skills in caring for people in psychedelic states.
“I sometimes think that nurses are often really the glue that holds the health system together,” he says, adding that there are more nurses than any other type of specialization in the American health system.
With over 3.8 million registered nurses (RNs) across the country, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, even a few more, compared to just over 550,000 doctors currently living in the United States
“So, you know, we’re kind of in sight, which makes us kind of invisible,” continues Penn. “And I think a lot of times people think they know what nurses do, but they don’t. The average person thinks we’re walking around in starched white outfits handing out small cups of pills. “
He says that without any anger, just an observation of the profession in which he has lived for over 18 years.
“Nurses are really used to only being there with patients,” says Penn. Perhaps this is one of the reasons nurses are so widely trusted by patients and also predisposed to caring for those in altered and vulnerable conditions.
“I’d say anyone who’s been in an intensive care unit nurse for twelve hours with a delirious patient is completely familiar with the idea of working with people in unusual states of mind,” he says. “If you’ve worked with someone who is delirious and pulls on their shackles and thinks they’re in a hotel room and being held captive by aliens – which I was in the hospital in that situation – that’s very good to work with applicable to people who are in other unusual states of consciousness. “
Penn’s medical references range from teaching psychopharmacology and clinical interviews at the UCSF School of Nursing to being a study therapist in Phase III clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD. That year he co-authored an article on psychedelic assisted therapy that appeared in the American Journal of Nursing (AJN), the premier monthly nursing journal, which was the prestigious journal’s first article on psychedelic treatments in 57 years.
“Nurses are adept at holding space while patients endure challenging events in real time and over an extended period of time, be it during childbirth, a sudden illness, an anxiety attack or the time around death,” reads the jointly authored Article. “This ability is a good way of being able to sit with a patient going through a therapeutic psychedelic experience, and it leaves room for anything that arises on a physical, emotional, mental or spiritual level.”
The point of the passage is well hit. Nurses tend to be with patients longer than almost any other health professional combined. In childbirth, which can span many layers of caregivers, nurses are the only continuous and close connection with patients through labor, delivery, and follow-up care. That means a lot of time to build close bonds and trust.
Penn describes how he and several other nurses who also attended the training recognized the unique skills nurses bring to the field of psychedelics work after training in psychedelic-assisted therapy and research at the California Institute for Integral Studies a few years ago. CIIS) had attended therapies. From these discussions with colleagues Wendy Marussich, Angela Ward and Liz Willis, the organization Psychedelic and Entheogenic Nurses (OPENurses) arose, which represents nurses of all levels of training and works with patients who use therapeutic psychedelic drugs.
“We thought we really needed to improve the perspective of nursing in this area,” he says, “because there is actually a unique perspective that nurses bring into the care that patients receive while they are undergoing a psychedelic therapy session.” ”
In addition to close patient contact and hours of work, there are core competencies inherent in the job, such as recognizing nuances of movement that signal discomfort and disorientation.
“Patients undergoing psychedelic therapy in this state are extremely sensitive to their surroundings,” he says. “If the caregiver has the feeling that they would rather be somewhere else, the patient can notice that very well. You have to be present, and this level of presence actually costs a lot of energy. ”
There are also the very mundane but important moments when patient can be helped with intimate and embarrassing mishaps such as patient incontinence that can happen during a psychedelic immersion. Nurses deal with these delicate situations every day without skipping a beat.
“Nurses are very comfortable taking care of the physical body,” says Penn. “For example, when patients have to go to the toilet during a session because they need help getting to the toilet. I’ve had patients who were incontinent during a session. We may need to help someone clean up. Nurses are cool with it. It’s not a big deal.”
Add to this the growing predicament in the psychedelic therapy field as more patients become interested in such therapies, while the industry is grappling with a shortage of psychedelic clinicians who are capable to cope with such treatment. You can bet some of these 3.8 million nurses currently working in America can meet the growing demand.
As an increasing number of nurses and nurses become involved in psychedelic therapy in anticipation of rescheduling psychedelic treatments, there are opportunities for training in psychedelic therapy in places like the Center for Psychedelic Therapy and Research at CIIS. There is also an informative, ongoing series of interviews from OPENurses.
“The growing field of psychedelic therapy will benefit greatly from the involvement of nursing,” reads a final passage of the jointly authored article in AJN. “Psychedelic-assisted therapies have great potential to alleviate suffering and promote healing, growth, and peace in the midst of disease, and caregivers are well prepared to do their part.”
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This article was originally published on Forbes and is shown here with permission.