This week (May 9th to 15th) is National Nursing Week. Tomorrow, May 12th is also International Nurses Day! These awareness events were created to celebrate the contributions nurses make to the wellbeing of Canadians and to showcase the many roles that nurses play in our health-care journey.
It Starts with Prevention
Nurses are in a great position to implement the four levels of FASD prevention. Those working in public health education can develop resource materials and campaigns to improve awareness and reduce stigma around alcohol use in pregnancy.
Nurses are also in a great position to talk to patients of reproductive age about their reproductive health, contraception, pregnancy, alcohol use, and other related issues. Women who use substances may be reluctant to seek care for fear of judgement or dismissal by medical professionals. They need to know they can talk openly and honestly with nurses and other health care providers in order to receive the help they need. When talking about these sensitive issues, healthcare providers need to take a non-judgemental, trauma-informed, relationship-first approach to these conversations.
However, researchers have revealed that there is a gap in nursing education and practice guidelines around defining the role nurses have in prevention. Surveys of physicians and midwives in Canada have shown less than half of care providers consistently discuss the risks of smoking, alcohol use, and addiction among all women of childbearing age.
Nurses and primary health care practitioners need to be trained in best practices for FASD prevention. They need to know how to support open and non-judgemental conversations about alcohol use during pregnancy and other reproductive health issues in order to effectively implement the principles of FASD prevention.
The Importance of being FASD Informed
Hospitals and other health care visits can be stressful and overwhelming for people with FASD. Sensory sensitivities can be triggered by the sights, sounds, and smells of a new place. Comorbid mental and physical health concerns can make assessment and treatment challenging. Health care teams need to be FASD-informed and well-prepared to effectively care for people with FASD and support their families.
Families and caregivers need to be listened to and have their concerns heard. Caregivers will know what works best for their child and will often have strategies and techniques that nursing staff can use to improve the experience of the individual.
Not all people with FASD who come in contact with the healthcare system have been diagnosed. Healthcare practitioners need training to identify and screen for FASD so patients with possible FASD can be referred for assessment.
These actions are essential in helping manage the stress and anxiety that individuals and families may experience and in ensuring that their visit to their health care provider runs smoothly.
Answering the Call for All
Nurses are an essential part of the health care team. In order to effectively support all their patient, nurses and healthcare practitioners need to be FASD-informed and trained in best practices for FASD prevention and screening.
If you are interested in FASD specific training courses, check out the list of online learning programs that CanFASD provides.