Nursing Students’ Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes Regarding Medicinal Cannabis Care


      Across the United States, cannabis regulation is rapidly changing. In 2018, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) released medical marijuana guidelines and called for all nursing students to be educated in six essential principles of knowledge in cannabis care. However, little is known about nursing students’ current knowledge regarding the care of patients using medicinal cannabis.


      To create a baseline body of evidence around nursing students’ knowledge based on NCSBN’s medical marijuana guidelines and nursing students’ skills and attitudes related to their future roles in providing care to patients who use cannabis medicinally.


      A mixed-method approach through a 16-item survey was used to provide two distinct categories of evidence. Quantitative data collected from 1,346 nursing students across the United States were analyzed using frequency, simple descriptive statistics, and Spearman’s rank correlation to identify variances among states based on sample size and geographic location. A qualitative thematic analysis method described common themes found in the open-ended qualitative portion.


      More than 90% of respondents believed cannabis has therapeutic benefits (N = 1,346, M = 1.61, SD = .69), with responses of strongly agree (n = 658; 48.9%), agree (n = 588; 43.7%), neither agree nor disagree (n = 78; 5.8%), disagree (n = 16; 1.2%), and strongly disagree (n = 6; 0.4%). However, 74% of respondents disagreed that their nursing school taught medical cannabis (N = 1,346, M = 4.05, SD = .97), with responses of strongly agree (n = 23; 1.7%), agree (n = 63; 4.7%), neither agree nor disagree (n = 266; 19.8%), disagree (n = 461; 34.2%), and strongly disagree (n = 533; 39.6%). Results were similar in all locations regardless of legality. Qualitative themes emerged indicating students’ desire for cannabis science to be included in the nursing curriculum (n = 525), and those who cared for patients using medical cannabis had positive experiences (n = 277). Most participants reported “media/news” (n = 829), “research articles” (n = 604), and “patients” (n = 383) as their primary sources of medical cannabis education.


      Although the nursing students who participated in this study believed cannabis has therapeutic value, few of the students are receiving education from their nursing programs based on NCSBN’s six essential principles of knowledge in the care of patients using cannabis, regardless of students’ location or type of enrolled nursing program. Nursing programs should establish cannabis science and cannabis care within their curricula to meet the patient population’s growing need for medical cannabis education.


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