Nurses in recovery from addiction; when professionals need help.
Nurses are a population that we would not usually associate with addiction. However, the rates of drug addiction among nurses, as well as other health practitioners are quite high. Nurses have access to different sorts of medical substances that have different effects on the body. The addiction is not necessarily to cocaine or other drugs, but commonly to prescription drugs with different effects. Around 10% of all nurses struggle with an addiction. However, the rate may be higher for nurses who work in more stressful situations, such as the E.R. or with a psychiatric population, for instance. Nurses in different jobs may also have different types of access to substances and different ways of obtaining them. For instance, some nurses may dilute patient medication or use the leftover substance.
Nurses have a highly stressful job. Not only do they see ill and dying people, but they also have to deal with the many problems of their job, like irregular hours, highly demanding work, challenging and distressed patients/family members, and a high responsibility. All these factors make them prone to burnout and stress, which, combined with the access to substances they have, and other individual factors, makes it more likely for them to fall into addiction.
There is a stigma and a culture of silence surrounding this issue. It is understandable, considering that individuals in the healthcare profession may place their patients at risk by abusing substances and engage in a breach of professional ethics by stealing medications and using them on the job.
However, it is important that nurses are offered supportive and professional recovery services and can be helped overcome their addiction. A nurse who can not accept the problem or admit it out of a fear of losing everything that they have or out of the strong guilt they feel continues to put patients at risk. A nurse who is in recovery may not be apt for working with patients, so is not risking their lives or well-being while having a chance to get better.
Often, the first step is a report. Colleagues, patients or doctors may need to report a nurse that has an impaired state out of a responsibility to, firstly, protect the patients and the reputation of the profession and of the institution, but also, secondly, to protect the nurse who probably requires professional help. Colleagues have not only an ethical, but also a legal duty to make the report.
Nurses in recovery may have a difficult process ahead of them. Many institutions have been offering nurses the option to get treatment rather than lose their licenses, thus removing an important obstacle on the way to recovery – the fear of being fired, losing the license, losing the job, losing the respect of their colleagues and peers and of course, their livelihood. However, this is just a first step.
Many obstacles can complicate the recovery process. An important aspect is that nurses continue to work in an environment with a high accessibility to drugs, so a higher supervision is required. Another is the mentality many health care professionals might have, that their knowledge and expertise on the topics of drugs can protect them from addiction or give them more control. However, this slippery slope type of thinking can be what leads to a problem in the first place. It can also complicate the addiction recovery process, as a nurse might think that they can beat addiction easily due to their professional skills. Key point – addiction doesn’t discriminate.
Another aspect that needs to be addressed are the strong feelings of shame and guilt. While the person may have committed unethical acts, it’s important to focus on the recovery process, rather than to continue shaming and stigmatizing the individual, as this is likely to worsen the situation.
It may also be important to consider the special needs of nurses with addiction as a clinical population. Their knowledge, mentality, environment and feelings all will play an important role in the recovery process, which is why it becomes important to adjust this process to better help and understand how nurses experience their addiction and associated factors.
Addiction recovery services that don’t take into account the specific and individual needs of nurses and medical professionals in recovery, may not be quite as well-equipped or effective in providing the support basis truly needed for long lasting recovery. Need Detox? – Get Started Here.
Nurses In Recovery / Live Better Live Now / Houston, Texas