The Importance of Nurse Practitioners in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy

by | Nov 14, 2022 | Awareness

This week is National Nurse Practitioners Week. What better way to kick off the celebration than by discussing the integral role nurse practitioners (NPs) will play in the future of psychedelic-assisted therapy?

Nurse practitioners are a vital part of modern healthcare, and their role will only become more important as psychedelic therapies become more mainstream. So, let’s take a closer look at what NPs are and how they can help with psychedelic-assisted therapy.

What is a Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse (RN) who has completed graduate-level coursework and training in a specialty area of nursing. NPs must also pass a national certification exam in their area of specialization.

Research on the work of NPs says, 

“Nurse practitioners (NPs) are recognized as having distinct knowledge and skills including their role in NP-led and NP-involved research. Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have completed additional education, often at the Master’s level, and are able to work in an expanded scope of practice.”

All of this makes NPs unique candidates for psychedelic-assisted therapy.

How Can a Nurse Practitioner Help With Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy?

Psychedelic-assisted therapy is a promising new treatment for multiple mental health disorders, but it’s still in its early stages. That’s where NPs come in. As experts in both mental health and pharmacology, NPs are uniquely qualified to administer psychedelic-assisted therapy and provide guidance to patients during the treatment process.

What’s more, NPs are also trained to recognize and manage adverse reactions to medications. Another skill NPs have that can be very helpful when working with psychedelic medicines. 

What do Nurse Practitioners Have to Say About Psychedelics and Mental Health?

In an interview with Forbes, Andrew Penn reiterated the importance of NPs and how they can help this new frontier of medicine. Penn is a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, the Associate Clinical Professor at the University of California–San Francisco School of Nursing, and also the Co-founder of OPENurses (The Organization of Psychedelic and Entheogenic Nurses), a professional organization for nurses interested in psychedelic research.

“I think sometimes that nurses are often really the glue that holds the healthcare system together”, and, “there actually is a kind of a unique perspective that nurses bring to the care that is given to patients while they are undergoing a psychedelic therapy session.”

In Penn’s co-authored article on psychedelic-assisted therapy in the American Journal of Nursing, it goes on to say,

“Nurses are skilled in holding space as patients endure challenging events in real time and for prolonged periods, whether that be during childbirth, a sudden illness, an anxiety attack, or the time surrounding death.”

“This skill translates well to being able to sit with a patient undergoing a therapeutic psychedelic experience, allowing space for whatever arises at physical, emotional, mental or spiritual levels.”

“Psychedelic-assisted therapies offer great potential to alleviate suffering and cultivate healing, growth, and peace amid illness, and nurses are well prepared to contribute.”

Nurse Practitioners and Psilocybin

Penn and his colleagues are not alone in their beliefs. An overview of psilocybin for psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners is published in Perspectives in Psychiatric Care. It encourages NPs and other nurses to learn about the benefits of psilocybin for mental health.

“Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners are essential mental health providers that may be at the forefront of delivering these new treatment modalities. Therefore, they must be aware of the psychopharmacological and psychotherapeutic tenets of psilocybin to be prepared to treat patients.”

Given the level of involvement NPs have with patients and our healthcare system, their expertise and experience seem to be instrumental in the future of psychedelic-assisted therapy. Which happens to be similar to the impact pharmacists are making in the world of psychedelic healthcare. 

As more NPs, and other nurses, continue to assist with research and voice their professional opinions, these alternative therapy options are more likely to become mainstream. Looking at the current state of psychedelics in America, it’s only a matter of time before nurse practitioners all over the country are more familiar with psychedelic medicines and their therapeutic benefits.