continue in place for nurses with addiction problems. More

continue to ignore the prevalence
of unsafe nurses caring for patients. The American Nurses Association admits
that the incidence of nurses with addiction is similar to that of the population
of the United States, which is ten percent. While ten percent does not seem
like a huge number, when you put it into perspective it is concerning. Ten
percent of nurses in the United States equates to about 300,000 (Copp, 2009). In
order to address a problem, we need to understand the root.

Many individuals
live with addiction. Nurses are at an even higher risk for addiction related to
a physically and emotionally taxing work environment. Mary Holloran was a
highly respected nurse among her colleagues. She became dependent on a
medication that was prescribed for her migraines. Holloran displayed qualities
that impressed everyone, yet she was battling addiction (Copp, 2009). This goes
to show that we need to be more observant as colleagues and pay more attention.

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Holloran was the primary breadwinner with three young children at home. She
also was caring for her father who was disabled. To make ends meet, Holloran
was picking up extra shifts. The same medication that she was prescribed,
butorphanol, was a medication that she administered to her labor and delivery
patients. She started using the leftover medication when she did not administer
a full dose her patients. As her addiction worsened, she began stealing full
vials from the facility (Copp, 2009). This is a great example because this
nurse is very similar to many nurses you talk to. So many nurses live under
stress and spread themselves too thin. Everyone has some type of stress in his
or her life. Personal problems, alone, can be overwhelming. Dealing with such
issues while caring for patients and working 12-hour shifts is not a good

There are current
systems in place for nurses with addiction problems. More importantly than
treating the problem is preventing the problem. If nurses had more support and
resources available to them, many would not be triggered to abuse substances. Nurses
need an outlet in order to prevent taking all the stress from work home with
them. Some facilities have Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs, in which they
encourage employees to come talk about any work or non-work related problems
they may have. A survey of 313 nurses revealed that most nurses are unfamiliar
with EAPs. This survey also exposed that the nurses who were already addicted
to substances were too scared of termination to use the EAP (Copp, 2009). I
think that we need to lobby for facilities to have effective EAPs and

Health care
professionals deserve an outlet for personal problems or problems faced at
work. In order to lobby for this funding, I would present the statistics and
information proving the trend of nurses battling addiction to the local
government. I would explain the benefits of upstream intervention: preventing
nurses from addiction problems by offering supportive environments. The
benefits of upstream interventions are fewer nurses with substance abuse, more
clients receiving safe care, and less money spent on rehabilitation programs.

Anyone in the health care profession is aware that primary prevention is much
more resourceful than tertiary prevention. It is much easier to prevent health
issues than to resolve them, which is why I am lobbying for more funding for
employee resources.

Though I emphasize
the need for upstream intervention, I also think that our current secondary and
tertiary prevention programs need improvement. The statistic that at least one
out of every ten nurses has problems with addiction proves that a lot of our
patients are receiving unsafe care. Nurses are misusing substances for months
before anyone blinks an eye. Hospitals need to invest more time and money into
educating employees what an impaired individual looks like, so unsafe nurses
can be identified sooner. It is absolutely unacceptable for nurses to be
working while under the influence. It is vital that we take the appropriate methods
to protect our patients.

measures in place for impaired nurses are failing. A perfect example is nurse
Melony Currier. Currier, over almost five years, had multiple counts of being
high on the job, stealing drugs from the hospital, and failing drug tests.

Currier entered the California’s drug diversion program for registered nurses
somewhere along the line. The program failed to help her and she continued to
get high and steal drugs from multiple different facilities. Evaluators of the
diversion program labeled Currier a “public risk,” yet no action was taken. The
board did not restrict this unsafe nurse from treating patients. Rather, they
let 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 patients
by the Board of Registered Nursing. According to Weber and Orstein (2009, para.

25), “Even after the program expels nurses and labels them public safety
threats, the board takes a median 15 months to file a public accusation.” An
unsafe nurse working one day is unacceptable, let alone fifteen months. Nurses
need to be held more accountable for the sake of the patients. 

            One of the issues with the diversion program in place is
that it is confidential. While diversion is supposed to protect the nurses and
the patients, it is clear that sometimes the patients are at a higher risk. The
Board of Registered Nursing does not discipline the nurses and keeps the public
from knowing about their participation. The idea is that the nurses can
secretly get sober and then return to work without losing their licenses. The
program makes nurses pledge that they will not work until their sober, yet
fails to seize their licenses and make sure they are telling the truth (Weber
and Ornstein, 2009). With this loose structure, there is no way to know if
nurses are benefiting from the program or not. If the board is going to give
nurses the benefit of the doubt