"I didn't feel like a number": The impact of nurse care managers on the provision of buprenorphine treatment in primary care settings

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2022 Jan;132:108633. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2021.108633. Epub 2021 Sep 27.


Background and objective: To promote increased access to and retention in buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder, the New York City (NYC) Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) implemented the Buprenorphine Nurse Care Manager Initiative (BNCMI) in 2016, in which nurse care managers (NCMs) coordinate buprenorphine treatment in safety-net primary care clinics. To explore how patients experienced the care they received from NCMs, DOHMH staff conducted in-person, in-depth interviews with patients who had, or were currently receiving, buprenorphine treatment at BNCMI clinics. Participants were patients who were receiving, or had received, buprenorphine treatment through BNCMI at one of the participating safety-net primary care practices.

Methods: The study team used a thematic analytic and framework analysis approach to capture concepts related to patient experiences of care received from NCMs, and to explore differences between those who were in treatment for at least six consecutive months and those who left treatment within the first six months.

Results: Themes common to both groups were that NCMs showed care and concern for patients' overall well-being in a nonjudgmental manner. In addition, NCMs provided critical clinical and logistical support. Among out-of-treatment participants, interactions with the NCM were rarely the catalyst for disengaging with treatment. Moreover, in-treatment participants perceived the NCM as part of a larger clinical team that collectively offered support, and the care provided by NCMs was often a motivating factor for them to remain engaged in treatment.

Conclusion: Findings suggest that by providing emotional, clinical, and logistical support, as well as intensive engagement (e.g., frequent phone calls), the care that NCMs provide could encourage retention of patients in buprenorphine treatment.

Keywords: Buprenorphine; Nurse care managers; Opioid use disorder; Primary care.

MeSH terms

  • Buprenorphine* / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Opiate Substitution Treatment
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Primary Health Care
  • Safety-net Providers


  • Buprenorphine