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Addiction, Concurrent Disorder, Harm Reduction, Historical Research, Mental Health, Nursing, Substance Use



  1. Danda, Michelle C. MN, MPN, RN, CPMHN(C)


Abstract: Harm reduction is becoming integrated into the hospital setting, yet there is a dearth of published academic literature on the topic of harm reduction in mental health nursing practice. No results were found in a literature search focused specifically on harm reduction policies in the inpatient psychiatric settings using the databases CINAHL, Google Scholar, and PubMed. The purpose of this article was to provide a historical overview of harm reduction in Canadian nursing from 1998 to 2018. The aim was to help direct care nurses, educators, and administrators understand past and present trends and to identify future possibilities for integration in inpatient mental health care. A historical perspective was used to identify and explore Canadian harm reduction literature published from 1998 to 2018 to establish the significance to inform nursing practice. The exploration began with a brief description of outreach nursing in early Canada. Focus shifted to the human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s, on to the 2000s when a broader lens of harm reduction was adopted, looking beyond the goal of reducing sexually transmitted illnesses. Literature published in the mid-2000s focused on marginalized populations, highlighting the connection between ethical practice and harm reduction philosophy. At the beginning of the 2010s, the Canadian Nursing Association released position statements that explicitly identified the role of harm reduction in nursing practice. Toward the end of the 2010s, the opioid overdose crisis promoted harm reduction nurses taking a broader focus, entering the hospital settings.