Nursing Conference Covers Addiction and Pregnancy

Adele Hudnall, assistant nurse manager of the neonatal ICU at Fairview Hospital, has seen an increase of infants in the NICU with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). “In the past, we would occasionally have an infant who was withdrawing from mom’s drug use,” says Hudnall. “But it has gotten to the point where we almost always have a couple of infants with NAS.” That’s why the veteran nurse was so glad to hear about a conference organized by a Fairview clinical nurse specialist and social worker last year entitled “Addiction Complicated by Pregnancy.”

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“These infants and their families can at times be very difficult to care for,” says Hudnall. “I wanted to see what new information I could find to help me in my practice and help support our NICU staff.” She was one of more than 75 attendees at the day-long conference, which featured experts including physicians, a pharmacist, a neonatal nurse practitioner, a social worker and a licensed chemical dependency counselor. They shared information on how addiction gets started, how drugs work in the body, what new street drugs are prevalent, how addiction affects the newborn after delivery, where families with addiction can receive support and more.

Ann Roach, RNC-OB, RNC-MNN, ACNS-BC, a clinical nurse specialist at Fairview Hospital, put together the multidisciplinary conference with social worker Melissa Seagro, LISW-S, C-SWHC, a perinatal specialist. “We wanted to address this issue for nurses because there is such a gap between what we know and what we are practicing,” says Roach. “And addiction is escalating. There’s a tsunami of opiate-dependent women.” She and Seagro selected the conference name “Addiction Complicated by Pregnancy” because hospitals typically see addicts who become pregnant, not pregnant women who then become addicts.

“The title of the conference truly intrigued me,” says Hudnall. “I had always looked at it in the exact opposite way, and now I see things in a new light.” That was the goal of the conference. Roach hoped that attendees—which included nurses from hospitals throughout northeast Ohio who worked in the NICU, labor and delivery, and post-partum units—would learn more about addiction in pregnancy and question their own preconceptions about these patients. “There are two patients here—the mom and the baby,” says Roach. “And they both deserve unbiased care.”

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Hudnall says she is much more empathetic toward addicted mothers since attending the conference. “I attempt to meet each of these moms in our unit and reach out to them on a regular basis so they know they have someone they can talk to or at least get a smile from,” she says.

The Addiction Complicated by Pregnancy Conference was such a success that Fairview Hospital is holding another one on November 5. Topics include:

  • Addiction and medication-assisted therapy
  • Drugs of abuse
  • Pregnancy and addiction
  • The withdrawing neonate
  • Social service involvement
  • The addicted family

For more information or to register, contact Ann Roach at 216.476.7667 or

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