continue to ignore the prevalenceof unsafe nurses caring for patients. The American Nurses Association admitsthat the incidence of nurses with addiction is similar to that of the populationof the United States, which is ten percent. While ten percent does not seemlike a huge number, when you put it into perspective it is concerning.
Tenpercent of nurses in the United States equates to about 300,000 (Copp, 2009). Inorder to address a problem, we need to understand the root. Many individualslive with addiction. Nurses are at an even higher risk for addiction related toa physically and emotionally taxing work environment. Mary Holloran was ahighly respected nurse among her colleagues. She became dependent on amedication that was prescribed for her migraines.
Holloran displayed qualitiesthat impressed everyone, yet she was battling addiction (Copp, 2009). This goesto show that we need to be more observant as colleagues and pay more attention.Holloran was the primary breadwinner with three young children at home. Shealso was caring for her father who was disabled. To make ends meet, Holloranwas picking up extra shifts. The same medication that she was prescribed,butorphanol, was a medication that she administered to her labor and deliverypatients. She started using the leftover medication when she did not administera full dose her patients.
As her addiction worsened, she began stealing fullvials from the facility (Copp, 2009). This is a great example because thisnurse is very similar to many nurses you talk to. So many nurses live understress and spread themselves too thin. Everyone has some type of stress in hisor her life.
Personal problems, alone, can be overwhelming. Dealing with suchissues while caring for patients and working 12-hour shifts is not a goodmixture.There are currentsystems in place for nurses with addiction problems. More importantly thantreating the problem is preventing the problem. If nurses had more support andresources available to them, many would not be triggered to abuse substances. Nursesneed an outlet in order to prevent taking all the stress from work home withthem. Some facilities have Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs, in which theyencourage employees to come talk about any work or non-work related problemsthey may have. A survey of 313 nurses revealed that most nurses are unfamiliarwith EAPs.
This survey also exposed that the nurses who were already addictedto substances were too scared of termination to use the EAP (Copp, 2009). Ithink that we need to lobby for facilities to have effective EAPs andcounseling. Health careprofessionals deserve an outlet for personal problems or problems faced atwork. In order to lobby for this funding, I would present the statistics andinformation proving the trend of nurses battling addiction to the localgovernment. I would explain the benefits of upstream intervention: preventingnurses from addiction problems by offering supportive environments.
Thebenefits of upstream interventions are fewer nurses with substance abuse, moreclients receiving safe care, and less money spent on rehabilitation programs.Anyone in the health care profession is aware that primary prevention is muchmore resourceful than tertiary prevention. It is much easier to prevent healthissues than to resolve them, which is why I am lobbying for more funding foremployee resources.Though I emphasizethe need for upstream intervention, I also think that our current secondary andtertiary prevention programs need improvement. The statistic that at least oneout of every ten nurses has problems with addiction proves that a lot of ourpatients are receiving unsafe care. Nurses are misusing substances for monthsbefore anyone blinks an eye. Hospitals need to invest more time and money intoeducating employees what an impaired individual looks like, so unsafe nursescan be identified sooner.
It is absolutely unacceptable for nurses to beworking while under the influence. It is vital that we take the appropriate methodsto protect our patients. Themeasures in place for impaired nurses are failing. A perfect example is nurseMelony Currier. Currier, over almost five years, had multiple counts of beinghigh on the job, stealing drugs from the hospital, and failing drug tests.Currier entered the California’s drug diversion program for registered nursessomewhere along the line. The program failed to help her and she continued toget high and steal drugs from multiple different facilities.
Evaluators of thediversion program labeled Currier a “public risk,” yet no action was taken. Theboard did not restrict this unsafe nurse from treating patients. Rather, theylet the show go on for another one and a half years (Weber and Ornstein, 2009).
There is something terribly wrong with this system. If any nurse is deemed a”public risk,” they should immediately be revoked the right to treat patientsby the Board of Registered Nursing. According to Weber and Orstein (2009, para.25), “Even after the program expels nurses and labels them public safetythreats, the board takes a median 15 months to file a public accusation.” Anunsafe nurse working one day is unacceptable, let alone fifteen months. Nursesneed to be held more accountable for the sake of the patients.
One of the issues with the diversion program in place isthat it is confidential. While diversion is supposed to protect the nurses andthe patients, it is clear that sometimes the patients are at a higher risk. TheBoard of Registered Nursing does not discipline the nurses and keeps the publicfrom knowing about their participation. The idea is that the nurses cansecretly get sober and then return to work without losing their licenses. Theprogram makes nurses pledge that they will not work until their sober, yetfails to seize their licenses and make sure they are telling the truth (Weberand Ornstein, 2009).
With this loose structure, there is no way to know ifnurses are benefiting from the program or not. If the board is going to givenurses the benefit of the doubt