Nurses with Addiction

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Nursing is one of the most stressful careers in healthcare. Long hours of direct patient care take its toll emotionally and physically. While the profession is rewarding for most, the constant stress can become a catalyst for all kinds of self damaging behaviors. The American Nurses' Association estimates between ten and twenty percent of nurses will abuse drugs within the workplace at some point during his/her career (ANA, 2002). This percentage is similar to that of substance abusers within the general population. Due to the ease of access to narcotics on the job, it can be difficult to recognize a problem in the early stages. Only once the nurse’s activities have been suspected due to medication shortage or job performance problems can intervention be made. Professionals with addiction not only risk harming themselves and their career, but put their patients at an increased unnecessary risk of malpractice.
Unfortunately in November 2009, four nurses in a local hospital were found to be stealing Morphine, Fentanyl, Dilaudid, and other narcotics during their shifts. All four nurses had been employed in various departments and were operating independently of each other. Each nurse was apprehended after being observed for strange behaviors and unauthorized Pixus medication station discrepancies. According to Dunn, psychiatric and oncology nurses have the highest likelihood for drug abuse due to the constant stress and emotional pressures associated with their careers (Dunn, 2005). The lowest instance of abuse occurs in Women’s Health and Pediatric nursing (NIH, 2003). It is unclear whether this rate is due to the nurse’s coping capabilities in such areas, or the lack of narcotics available on these types of care units.
Aside from disobeying the loyalty of the workplace, these nurses have violated the Nursing Code of Ethics in relation to themselves, the hospital, and the patients. Within the Nursing Code of Ethics (ANA, 2001) nurses vow to:



References: American Nurses Association (2001). Code of ethics for nurses. Retrieved from http://www.nursingworld.org/about/01action.htm. on December 11,2009. Dunn, D. (2005). Substance abuse among Nurses-defining the issue. Association of operating room nurses. (82) 592-596. Retrieved from Proquest December 10, 2009. National Institute of Health (2003). Retrieved from www.drugabuse.gov/infofacts/costs.html on December 10, 2009.

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