Nursing Alumna Leading the Way in Fight Against Opioid Epidemic

By Jeanne Leong

When psychiatric nurse practitioner Serena Natal saw the increasing devastation caused by the opioid epidemic, she knew she had to take action. “Every week I encountered someone who was affected by an opioid overdose some way or somehow—whether it was a client of mine, the family member of a client, or a staff member’s family member,” said Natal GSNC’17, whose career reaches back almost 20 years.

Serena Natal GSNC’17

Serena Natal GSNC’17

Natal, who earned a doctorate in nursing practice from Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden, used her graduate school work as an opportunity to research and create an educational intervention program on implementing opioid overdose management training in substance abuse treatment facilities. The guide she created is being used at some halfway houses, residential treatment facilities, and outpatient treatment facilities that serve Camden County residents. The manual provides information about opioid overdose management and how to incorporate the education into treatment for clients with an opioid use disorder, as well as information ranging from how an overdose occurs to instructions on how to administer Narcan, the medication that reverses the effects of opioids. “Every life saved through overdose prevention interventions provides another opportunity for someone with an opioid use disorder to continue fighting their disease of addiction,” she said.

Natal’s path to earning her doctorate started in 2003 when she began taking classes at Camden County College, earning an associate’s degree. A resident of Sicklerville, New Jersey, she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Delaware, and a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania.

Now that Natal has earned her doctorate, she continues to work at A Step Ahead Partial Hospitalization Program at Inspira Health Network in Bridgeton, a behavioral health program for children from 3 to 17 years old. In addition, she owns and operates LifeSpan Psychiatry, providing community and outpatient psychiatric treatment and services across the developmental lifespan.

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