This piece was originally published on bluntbae.com
How Nurses can adapt to Cannabis legalization
There is a new movement of medical practitioners, make way for the rise of the cannabis nurse! Coming out of the cannabis closet has opened many doors and conversations with lots of different people. And conversations with medical practitioners have been the most interesting by far.
Recently, I reconnected with a long-time friend who became a registered practicing nurse (RPN) in Ontario. She reached out wanting to know more information about cannabis as a recreational/medicinal substance as well as the industry. I didn't know what she meant by wanting to know more information until I sat down with her. I realized she was coming to me for professional advice on how to speak to people/consumers/patients in her line of work in relation to cannabis. It was a truly honouring and humbling experience for me. Being able to share with her what I have learned about the space and how to navigate the language of cannabis consumption. This is how it went.
She said she had an experience with a patient who was pregnant and also consuming cannabis as a method to deal with her anxiety due to an abusive relationship with the father of her unborn child. However, when faced with this information, my friend had opened up to me and said that she felt as though she did not fulfill her duties as a medical practitioner. She didn't know what kind of information she needed in order to provide medical advice to the patient. Nor did she know how to approach the topic. It was an uncomfortable place for her to be, as she felt as though she couldn't help the patient to the best of her abilities. She mentioned there were no formal teachings from school besides one small case study, that she claimed didn't sufficiently provide the information needed to handle a situation such as this one.
Despite medical cannabis being legal for almost 20 years, it wasn’t surprising that educational institutions were still lacking in this topic. In addition, she never consumed cannabis, so her level of experience with the plant was a literal zero.
As a consumer and a professional working in the space, I gave her advice to the best of my abilities. My goal was to let her know that no one has all the answers. However, this conversation was super valuable to me, as it gave me hope for what the future will bring for new and young medical practitioners who are joining the workforce.
Here were my recommendations for her.
1. Know about the "what, where, how," with cannabis
This means everything from, where the patient could have purchased cannabis; a legal retailer or from a private seller? What is the strain they consume and how do they consume it? What area of the city (Greater Toronto Area [GTA]) are they from? She was particularly surprised when I told her that each municipality within the GTA has voted/responded to cannabis legalization differently. This is all very basic and important data to understand the patients' relationship with their cannabis consumption. This can be super informative when it comes to directing the conversation on how to advise the patient and can also give the medical practitioner the upper hand in analyzing whether the patient is withholding information or not.
Familiarize yourself with the Endocannabinoid system and its relationship with cannabis. I advised her that everyone's endocannabinoid system is different and that the studies on it are still very new. Developing a basic understanding of what it is and how it works is super valuable to understanding the relationship between cannabis and its scientific properties.
2. Using Proper Language/Keywords
Small things like addressing the substance as cannabis and not marijuana. Making sure to avoid negative trigger words/slang like “addicted”, “dependence”, “overdose/OD”, “illegal”, “dealer”, "high". These are all words that are associated with a ton of stigma that can really shame and intimidate a patient. Ensuring and enforcing an honest and understanding form of language is what can elevate the medical industry and build trust for the patient.
3. Ask the right questions the right way
One thing that must be practiced in the medical field is an open-mind and empathy, hence asking the right questions will bridge that gap of misunderstanding, misinformation, and miscommunication. The most important question to ask anyone, patient or not, when it comes to medical cannabis would be "how does it help you?", "Are you aware of the effects of cannabis?". Instead of questions like "What do you need it [cannabis] for?' "Are you high right now?". Again, questions that are associated with a ton of stigma. It's important for medical practitioners to understand and accept that cannabis consumption is so much more than just "getting high".
4. Public Record Resources
Do your own research and look into all of the information that's already available to the public. With online resources of strain information and consumer reviews, it's super helpful to get a general and basic understanding of what cannabis information looks and sounds like. Some resources I suggested to her include:
5. Start A Resource Group
Take on the bare minimum amount of leadership and encourage other medical practitioners to join in on the conversation. Whether it be a focus group, think tank, round table discussion or just afternoon tea. It'll be the first step to progress, change, and development while destroying the stigma. I made it known to her that medical practitioners like herself hold so much power and influence. She's the one that can create change and advocacy and normalize cannabis both medically and recreationally in the future. It's part of her job as well as others who are joining the medical workforce to create change and progress for the health and wellness of Canada.
We agreed that the current situation in the Canadian medical field is incredibly “medieval” and needs a serious upgrade in its institution, technology, communications, and pretty much everything else. However, I reiterated to her how important this conversation is for medical practitioners in the future. She wields an incredible amount of power as leaders and influencers of the plant for both business and medicine. She and her coworkers will be the next generation of medical practitioners and they should only focus on being better and trying harder.
My takeaway from this conversation was incredibly fulfilling and inspiring as it really gives me hope that Canadian society is really beginning to come around. This will also mark the beginning of taking the first step into progress. It's time for a brand new job description - The Rise of the Cannabis Nurse.