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Safe prescribing

Faculty of Medicine addressing opioid abuse in N.L.

Teaching and Learning

By Michelle Osmond

A mandatory course for physicians on safe and appropriate prescribing practices for opioids, stimulants and benzodiazepines is now offered by the Faculty of Medicine.

The course was developed by the faculty in partnership with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is the first time a college in Canada has mandated a course such as this prior to giving a licence to new physicians.

Healthier N.L.

Dr. Vernon Curran, associate dean of educational development at the faculty, representing the Office of Professional Development, provided a presentation on the course at the Faculty of Medicine on Feb. 27.

Five people standing in front of a screen
From left are Dean Margaret Steele, Dr. Linda Inkpen, Desmond Whalen, Minister John Haggie and Dr. Vernon Curran.
Photo: Jennifer Armstrong/HSIMS

Dr. Margaret Steele, dean, Faculty of Medicine, says the course fits well with the faculty’s commitment to transforming health care for a healthier Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Establishing safe and appropriate prescribing practices is an important skill for our future physicians,” she said. “This program will equip them with the knowledge to make informed decisions.”

Fourth-year doctor of medicine student Desmond Whalen says, as a future physician, staying on top of best practices is “so important.” He says given the current public health concerns around opioids, the need for continuing education on this topic is paramount.

“Fear of prescription is often associated with unfamiliarity and this course aims to shed light on the guidelines, best practices and proper use of certain medication so we are not only be better educated as health-care professionals, but we can also educate our patients and the public,” he said.

“I am glad to see that Newfoundland and Labrador is leading the country in such an endeavour.”

“Opioid use often begins in the physician’s office with a prescription pad.” — John Haggie

John Haggie, minister, Health and Community Services, was on hand for the launch.

“Opioid use often begins in the physician’s office with a prescription pad,” he said. “Our goal is proper education to arm health-care providers with the information. This will allow them to make informed decisions about these powerful drugs, and ultimately, help curb prescription drug abuse.”

Opioid Action Plan

Implementation of the safe prescribing course is part of the provincial Opioid Action Plan, which aims to arm health-care providers and communities with the tools and information needed to respond to the growing epidemic of opioid use in Canada.

The course is mandatory for all new physicians seeking a licence in the province. It is also available to other health-care providers, such as nurse practitioners, dentists and pharmacists, and will be made available online through MDcme.ca, a nationally accredited online portal for continuing medical education.

“The college is extremely pleased with the development of this safe prescribing course and warmly thanks the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador for their tangible support in its development and for the professional course presentation through Dr. Curran and the Faculty of Medicine,” said Dr. Linda Inkpen, registrar of the Newfoundland and Labrador College of Physicians and Surgeons.

“The college has taken numerous actions to combat the misuse, abuse and diversion of opioids. This safe prescribing course is integral to college work in dealing with this Canadian and Newfoundland and Labrador health crisis.”


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