Improving Outcomes of Opioid Overdose: Preparing Nursing Students to Intervene

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Death by overdose has been steadily increasing since 1992 and has become a public health epidemic. With the rise of prescription pain medications for nonmedical use and the highest use of illicit substances by those ages 18–25, the need for action is imperative.


The aim of the study was to determine whether an educational intervention had an effect on nursing students’ knowledge and skills regarding administration of intranasal naloxone for opioid overdose.


A convenience sample of baccalaureate nursing students was recruited for the study. A pretest/posttest design was used to evaluate the educational intervention. A paired t test was used to compare differences in pre- and posttest scores.


A total of 49 students completed the study. The majority were women ages 25 and below, 31 (63.2%) had some or no background knowledge of opioid overdose, and 42 (85.7%) had not received previous training on intranasal naloxone. Student knowledge increased significantly (p < .001) following the educational intervention. Twenty-four students requested hands-on training for implementation of the intranasal naloxone and scored 100% accuracy in return demonstration.


Implementation of this brief training was effective for increasing the knowledge of opioid overdose for an at-risk population. The nursing student is in a unique position to educate, train, and intervene for peers, friends, and family members who are at high risk for an opiate overdose. Nursing students have a pronounced advantage to assess for respiratory depression and initiate CPR, thereby interrupting a fatal overdose.

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