Team Effort: New Opioid Series Involves All Pennsylvania Prescribers

Angie Mays, RN, a registered nurse from Lancaster, says she has seen a steady rise in the number of patients who enter her emergency department seeking medication refills for their chronic pain.

Some requests are legitimate. But some are likely pill scammers who have become addicted to opioids.

“We’re kind of caught between a rock and a hard place,” she said.

It’s an all-too-familiar predicament facing physicians, nurses, physician assistants, dentists, and other health care team members who prescribe opioids to patients.

To help prescribers combat the growing opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) joined forces with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and other health care associations to create an online educational program for prescribers.

Part 1 of “Addressing Pennsylvania’s Opioid Crisis: What Health Care Teams Need to Know,” which examines how prescribers can use the statewide voluntary opioid prescribing guidelines, is now available at It covers the acute and chronic guidelines, in addition to the newly released guidelines for dentists and pharmacists.


Mays and others have said the new guidelines have already made a difference in allowing them to explain to patients why prescribing opioids is not always the best option.

“The guidelines give a higher power to refer to when you’re talking to the patients as opposed to just saying no,” said Bruce MacLeod, MD, an emergency room physician from Pittsburgh and Past President of the PAMED. “Sometimes that’s a very difficult conversation to have when someone presents with an exacerbation of their chronic pain.”

Prescribers who take the guidelines course can earn CME credit and, upon completion, should:

  • Better understand state prescribing limitations
  • Learn aspects of the guidelines that are unique to acute and chronic pain
  • Identify addictive behaviors
  • Understand some legal aspects of the guidelines

There will be three other courses as part of this project covering the use of naloxone, the warm hand-off, and Pennsylvania’s upcoming controlled substances database. Those courses will be available over the next few months.

The organizations involved in the creation of this program include:

  • Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania
  • Pennsylvania Coalition of Nurse Practitioners
  • Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers
  • Pennsylvania Dental Association
  • Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs
  • Pennsylvania Department of Health
  • Pennsylvania Medical Society
  • Pennsylvania Osteopathic Medical Association
  • Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association
  • Pennsylvania Podiatric Medical Association
  • Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants
  • Pennsylvania State Nurses Association

PAMED has several additional resources to assist physicians with helping to combat the opioid abuse crisis in Pennsylvania.