Columbia Nursing’s Kellie Bryant’s Ongoing Mission to Train Everyone to Treat Opioid Overdose

When Kellie Bryant, DNP, executive director of simulation and assistant professor at Columbia University School of Nursing, decided a year ago to offer training in the administration of naloxone, she thought only the 200-plus students at the School of Nursing would take it. She was wrong.

 
Columbia University School of Nursing's Kellie Bryant is shown.
Kellie Bryant

Bryant has since trained more than 900 people, including faculty, staff, and pre-clinical students from Columbia University Irving Medical Center (CUIMC), local residents, and police officers in the use of the opioid-overdose antidote that is sold under the brand name Narcan. A New York state-certified trainer, she has offered sessions at ColumbiaDoctors outpatient centers, neighborhood senior centers, and community board meetings, and she has even trained New York State Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. She also plans to do workshops for parents and has agreed to train street fairgoers later this year.

“Every time I do it, somebody else requests it,” Bryant told CUIMC Today. “Whoever asks me, I try not to say no.”

She recalled the story of a New York City firefighter who tracked her down at work to request training for himself after discovering that his girlfriend had drug paraphernalia. “He said, ‘I haven’t been sleeping because I stay up at night looking at her to make sure she doesn’t overdose. I watch her sleep to make sure she is breathing,’” Bryant said.

 

Stories like these illustrate the growing public health crisis. In 2017, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and illegal opioids like heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl) was six times higher than in 1999, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On average, 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

 

Those statistics are stark, and they motivate Bryant to offer as much training as she can. When she is not available, members of the simulation center team will step in. Sessions range from 15 minutes for the general public to 45 minutes for those with medical training. The training covers how to determine if someone may have overdosed and how to give naloxone. At the end of each session, participants receive a kit containing naloxone nasal spray. 

 

Bryant thinks everyone should know how to administer naloxone, in part because silence contributes to stigma, which in turn leads to a perpetuation of the problem.

 

“People don’t want to talk about it,” she said. “They don’t want to face the fact that it’s an issue. They think it happens only to people on the streets who are using drugs. But this can happen to anyone—your family member who had surgery or had a tooth pulled and now has opioid substance abuse disorder. It can happen to anybody.”

 

Giving naloxone to someone is “extremely safe,” Bryant noted. “It only works if you have opioids in your system. So why not have everybody know how to use it?”

 

If you’d like to arrange a training session for your office, division, or department, write to Bryant at kdb2146@cumc.columbia.edu. To learn more about the state’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Program, including how to find a program near you and which pharmacies carry naloxone, visit the state’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Initiative. To learn more about naloxone, read the CDC factsheet.