Meet a Cannabis Nurse
Cannabis nurses fill care gaps outside of traditional medicine. They help patients engage the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a system of receptors throughout the body that responds to cannabinoid-type chemicals your body produces. The ECS is responsible for modulating and regulating:
- Appetite and digestion
Compounds from the Cannabis sativa plant also activate the ECS.
Discover some of the challenges and rewards of cannabis nursing, what cannabis nurses do, and how to enter this growing specialty.
Q&A With a Cannabis Nurse
Eve Kandiyoti is a registered nurse (RN) with over 16 years of experience and is the MC Wellness Group founder. She is a doctoral candidate and holds a master of nursing education. Her career started in the emergency department before shifting to education and advocacy roles in patient service programs. Her career goal is to integrate innovative value-based care to improve health outcomes.
In 2014, Kandiyoti began her cannabis nursing journey. She discovered the endocannabinoid system and plant-based medicinal benefits. Her quest for knowledge has led her to complete several medical cannabis certificates, including the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy's Medical Cannabis Education for Health Care Providers program.
Her philosophy is to empower others to be their best health advocates. She firmly believes that more education within the healthcare community on the ECS and cannabinoid therapeutics is needed to better serve our community; nurses should also know about cannabis nursing. Education is the first step in removing the stigma of cannabis.
Why did you choose a career in nursing? What led you to pursue cannabis nursing, specifically?
Since I was a young child, I have always wanted to be a nurse. The profession caught my attention again when I saw the diversity in nursing jobs. There are so many opportunities to learn and grow! Healthcare is constantly changing and expanding; it is exciting to be part of innovation to better our community.
I have had an interest in cannabis for the majority of my adult life. In 2014 when I began learning about the endocannabinoid system and the science behind cannabis, it sparked my curiosity about how to implement it into my nursing practice. It took some time to find other like-minded healthcare professionals and define my value in the space.
What is the cannabis nursing community like?
The cannabis nursing community consists of a diversity of nurses who are supportive, motivated, and curious. The Cannabis Nurses Network (CNN) and American Cannabis Nurses Association (ACNA) are great ways to connect with local and national cannabis nurses.
CNN provides a platform for cost-effective nursing education, speakers bureau, and networking opportunities. CNN helped me find fellow Texan cannabis nurses.
What are you most excited about in the future of cannabis nursing?
The medical cannabis space is an unprecedented opportunity for the nursing profession. It is our opportunity to use our advocacy skills to increase access to medical cannabis safely and with continuity of care. Nurses having a seat at the table to positively impact our community's health excites me the most about our future.
Cannabis nursing is a budding specialty. How do you navigate the potential shortcomings of working in a developing field?
There are many aspects to navigate as a cannabis nurse. Without a standardized recognized cannabis nursing certificate, you must find reputable resources for education. Courses that offer continuing education units (CEUs), like CNN, are excellent ways to receive a "certificate" in cannabis nursing.
When practicing as a cannabis nurse, consider your state's nursing practice, the National Council State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) 2018 Guidelines for the Nursing Care of Patients Using Marijuana, workplace policies, and procedures.
Advocacy and empowering the community to advocate is a big part of cannabis nursing. Laws and regulations are hindering access to individuals who would medically benefit, including healthcare professionals. Advocacy education includes the importance of speaking with their healthcare professional team, voting, and contacting their state and federal representatives.
You are currently collaborating with cannabis nurses nationwide to create legislation for nursing protections. How can nurses aid in advocating for legislation in this arena?
Coming together collectively as nurses to advocate for medical cannabis access is powerful. Nurses are the most trusted profession, and being patient advocates is at our core. Becoming an active member of your state's nursing association is a way to advocate within our profession.
For a national level, get involved with the American Nurses Association. You can also join CNN or ACNA to join committees working on legislative changes. Make it a personal priority to vote for legislative cannabis change.
You can start advocating today by asking patients about their use of cannabis with an open mind and a nonjudgmental tone. Next, include patient education about speaking to healthcare professionals about their interest in cannabinoid therapeutics to improve their ECS [knowledge].
Most healthcare professionals are not aware that we all have an ECS or about cannabis and medication interactions. They often first hear about the ECS from patients.
What are the benefits of working with cannabis as a nurse/healthcare provider?
Specializing in cannabinoid therapeutics is innovative, and the new research feeds my nurse scientist soul. Being a part of the cannabis nursing community and working collectively to use our nursing superpowers to support access for our community is a benefit. You are improving the quality of life and access to healthcare for so many.
What are some of the biggest challenges of your work?
A significant challenge is showing our value to the cannabis space. Everyone agrees nurses are an essential aspect of healthcare. However, most are not quite sure how to best implement nurses into the cannabis space. It is up to nurses to define our role, be tenacious, and use our voice to open up minds on how crucial nursing is for safety and continuity of care in healthcare settings and legislatively.
Another challenge is the lack of protection for nurses to use hemp or medical cannabis as patients themselves. Amid the pandemic, nurses are having higher numbers of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and burnout.
We have to take care of ourselves first to better care for others. Using cannabinoid therapeutics as a patient while being a nurse in many healthcare settings could lead to employment or license ramifications.
And the greatest rewards?
One of the major benefits of being a cannabis nurse is witnessing patients safely and medically supervised, reducing their prescribed medications, and improving their quality of life. There is also a professional and personal benefit of using my nursing strengths to empower healthcare professionals, the community, and patients to be their best health advocates.
The collaboration in the cannabis space among the various stakeholders is also a nice perk. It is incredible to have access to thought leaders in the medical cannabis space through CNN and the Society of Cannabis Clinicians.
What advice would you give to those considering a career or certification in cannabis nursing?
If you are considering a cannabis nursing specialty, reflect on how to combine the new knowledge and your strengths. Do your research and be mindful of the educational cost. There are master's degree programs specializing in cannabis, online CEUs, and free webinars.
At this time, there is no standardized certification program. Once you know the basics of the ECS and cannabinoid therapeutics and begin implementing them into your nursing practice, you are a cannabis nurse.
Being a cannabis nurse can be isolating at times. The cannabis nurse community has been instrumental in maintaining focus, motivation, and keeping up on the latest research while having fun. Staying connected with the cannabis nursing community is an important part of being a cannabis nurse.
What Does a Cannabis Nurse Do?
Since states define the laws governing the medicinal use of cannabis, it is crucial you know and understand the laws in your state.
As mentioned above, Kandiyoti advises to know your state's nursing practice, the NCSBN guidelines for nurses who are using cannabis in patient care, and any employer policies.
Like other areas of nursing, cannabis nursing is both a learned skill and practiced art. These professionals build on their expertise from past experiences and seek situations to support their knowledge. Cannabis nurses work closely with patients toward supporting health and wellness.
They use their understanding of the ECS, cannabinoid and other compounds, potential drug interactions, advocacy, ethics, and the law. This holistic and evidence-based practice is integrated with interdisciplinary teamwork to provide patient-centered care.
One of the major benefits of being a cannabis nurse is witnessing patients safely and medically supervised, reducing their prescribed medications, and improving their quality of life." - Eve Kandiyoti, Cannabis Nurse
Practice requires education and proficiency in several areas beyond registered nursing. A cannabis nurse must have the same skills as an RN or advanced practice registered nurse. They also have the following responsibilities:
- Understand the endocannabinoid system
- Advocate wellness through the upregulation of the endocannabinoid system
- Understand the different cannabis compounds and their physiological actions
- Recognize prescription and over-the-counter interactions with compounds found in cannabis
- Act as an advocate within the community and legislature so medicinal cannabis is available
- Promote ethical actions with the use of medicinal cannabis
- Act as a patient health coach and advocate for accurate information about cannabis
- Recognize patients and families may face discrimination and recommend legal counsel when appropriate
- Encourage and promote patient participation in their care
- Work with the patient's interdisciplinary team to create a comprehensive plan that addresses biological, psychological, and social needs
- Work with the patient to determine how cannabis fits with their values, preferences, and needs
- Integrate the most current evidence-based cannabis science
- Practice self-care to avoid burnout and maintain a caring spirit with your patients
How to Become a Cannabis Nurse
Your nursing practice begins with your nursing education. To become a cannabis nurse you will need a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. Nurses may choose to start their education with an associate degree in nursing and work while attending an RN-to-BSN nursing bridge program.
Anyone interested in becoming a cannabis nurse must choose a program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. This accreditation is required to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).
Once you have graduated from an accredited program, you must pass the NCLEX exam and have your state license before getting your first job. It is highly recommended nurses have at least two years of clinical experience before taking on a role such as a cannabis nurse. This helps aid in the transition to practice in a more independent role.
Cannabis nurses need extensive education to practice. The ACNA promotes online education classes. The foundational course covers the basics. Advanced classes relevant to healthcare professionals are also offered. Separate classes are available for experts interested in how cannabis may impact specific conditions.
The foundational course offers continuing education credits for nurses. It covers the endocannabinoid system, how compounds are extracted and may be administered, and product safety and compliance.
Since patient and community education is an integral part of your practice, the course also covers common myths about cannabis. It teaches how to lessen fears and misconceptions in your patients and families.
Currently, there is no national certification to practice as a cannabis nurse. But completion certifications after courses from the ACNA or CNN can help establish credibility.
How Much Do Cannabis Nurses Make?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for an RN in 2020 was $75,330. According to ZipRecruiter, the national average annual salary for a cannabis nurse in the U.S. is $66,430 as of December 2021. However, it is important to recognize this may not be an accurate estimate. The data from ZipRecruiter is from job postings and third-party sources, which is relatively thin because of the newness of the field.
ZipRecruiter has identified the top 10 highest-paying cities for cannabis nursing, and seven of them are in California. This may be related to how California citizens and legislature have embraced medicinal cannabis. It may also be related to the relatively higher cost of living in the state.
Some factors can lead to higher pay for cannabis nurses, including:
- Years of experience
- Advanced education
These factors are reflected in the top five best-paying jobs for cannabis nurses. These include cannabis director, cloud cannabis, head of cannabis grower, and cannabis store.
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