An overwhelming majority of nurses say that terminally ill patients with cancer in California who use medical cannabis under Ryan’s Law in an inpatient setting have better symptom management and satisfaction with the quality of their stay, according to survey findings reported during the 48th Annual ONS Congress® in April 2023.

Signed into law in September 2021, Ryan’s Law (CA S.B. 311) allows terminally ill patients who are authorized under California’s Compassionate Use Act to use their own medical cannabis in a healthcare facility. After their institutions updated their policies and procedures to support the legislation, ONS members Amanda McKaig, BSN-RN, OCN®, and Alyssa Ridad, BSN-RN, OCN®, developed a staff education module and measured nurses’ comfort with managing oncology inpatient medical cannabis use as well as their perception of its impact on symptom management.

Prior to the educational intervention, McKaig and Ridad said that nurses at their institutions were uncomfortable with the processes and procedures for implementing Ryan’s Law and were uncertain of its impact on patients. Postintevention, 80% of the nurses reported that they felt comfortable implementing the law in their practice and more than 85% said that doing so improved patients’ symptoms on reassessment and satisfaction with their inpatient stay.

According to nursing assessments, the most common symptoms improved were anxiety and insomnia, followed by pain, nausea, and anorexia. None of the nurses reported any barriers to implementing Ryan’s Law in their practice.

“This opens a lot of doors for looking at other methods to manage symptoms besides opioids or other products that have adverse events,” McKaig said in a subsequent interview. “Ryan’s Law is starting a lot of conversations—especially between patients and their family, or nurses and patients—about things that we don’t normally talk about.”

Ridad explained more about California’s medical cannabis regulations and provided strategies for nurses to understand and apply their own state’s regulations in the August 2023 ONS Voice featured article.