Health care access, medications for opioid use disorder, opioid use disorder, rural health



  1. Speight, Chandra PhD, RN, NP-C, CNE (Assistant Professor)


Background: Increasing access to opioid use disorder (OUD) treatment is critical to curbing the opioid epidemic, particularly for rural residents who experience numerous health and health care disparities, including higher overdose death rates and limited OUD treatment access compared with urban dwellers. Buprenorphine-naloxone is an evidence-based treatment for OUD that is well suited for rural areas. However, providers must have a specialized federal waiver to prescribe the medication. Despite the acceleration of the opioid epidemic in rural areas and the recent liberalization of federal buprenorphine-naloxone prescribing laws, few providers hold buprenorphine-naloxone prescribing waivers and even fewer prescribe the medication.


Purpose: This study explores barriers and facilitators to buprenorphine-naloxone prescribing among nurse practitioners (NPs) working in primary care settings in eastern North Carolina.


Methodology: Individual interviews were conducted with 13 NPs working in primary care settings in eastern North Carolina. Qualitative thematic analysis was used to identify perceived barriers and facilitators to buprenorphine-naloxone prescribing.


Results: Analysis found prescribing barriers related to OUD stigma, perceived knowledge, federal and state regulation, and prescribing resources and found facilitators related to adopting a person-centered approach, developing prescriber skills, and access to prescribing resources.


Conclusions: The barriers and facilitators that NPs experience related to buprenorphine prescribing for OUD are similar to those faced by physicians, although the barriers arguably more profound. Future research should consider how to mitigate these prescribing barriers to facilitate NP buprenorphine prescribing for OUD.


Implications: To our knowledge, this is the first qualitative study of NP buprenorphine-naloxone prescribing in rural areas. Given the prominence of OUD in rural regions and the key role NPs play in primary care provision, this study lays import groundwork for developing interventions to support buprenorphine-naloxone prescribing by NPs practicing in rural regions.