• Nurse Anesthesiology is Education

    By Suzie Newell, DNP, CRNA

    On Jan. 3, 2017, at 3 a.m., I awoke to my niece calling. Before I answered the phone, I knew my sister had died of an overdose. This 53-year-old woman had her master’s degree in education, a 25-year career, and three beautiful children with a grandchild on the way. She also had an accident history that introduced her to narcotics in her twenties. Her lifetime struggle with narcotics is not unique.

    After I returned from her funeral in Minnesota, I went back to my women’s health unit in central Ohio, where I practice obstetric anesthesia. That day, I placed three epidurals in women in active heroin addiction. I kept thinking the reason my sister never got better was shame. I realized that, as a healthcare system, we don’t treat substance use disorder (SUD) as a disease. We treat it as a shameful social service problem. That is why, drawing on my personal experience and training as a CRNA, I decided to devote myself to learning and educating others about the disease of SUD.

    I began by starting a group called Recovery Path for Mothers and Others (formerly Moms Getting Sober), where mothers could learn about recovery and develop coping mechanisms. I reached out to CRNAs working on research in this area. I studied the neuroscience behind coping mechanisms and the disease, where I learned that people with SUD are prone to decreased dopamine production. A daily user can completely deplete their ability to make dopamine. This is the cause of the desperation — imagine the terror of awakening with no capacity to make a hormone that functions as the primary antidepressant in your body. Coping mechanisms that build feel-good hormones like dopamine and endorphins are the answer.

    Today, I am working with CRNAs to educate pregnant women, mothers, other CRNAs, and the public about the importance of coping mechanisms in recovery. The work we do with Recovery Path for Mothers and Others will be published in June in Nursing for Women’s Health, the practice journal for of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. We are also helping to start multiple Recovery Path groups in different areas.
    My sister was an educator. Nurse anesthesiology is education at every level, and teaching everyone about these solutions has become my passion.

    Suzie Newell’s book, The Path 365, was published in April and provides down-to-earth daily coping strategies and a roadmap for reclaiming health from the inside out for everyone.

    Call the AANA Helpline for live, confidential and individualized help and support for drug or alcohol concerns: (800) 654-5167