If you suspect your nurse coworker of being a drinker, what do you do? - page 3

Let's say you can smell it on her breath :confused:... Read More

  1. 0
    Quote from Bluehair
    What would your liability be if you didn't?
    Not necessarily any criminal liability, but as far as our governing nursing licensing body is concerned, they could definitely find you guilty of professional misconduct by not adequately protecting the public (patients) from the risk imposed by another nurse practicing while impaired with your knowledge.
    Essentially, the possibility of having your license suspended/revoked.

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  2. 0
    Quote from styRN
    Evidence based suspisions of a co-worker practicing while under the influence of drugs/alcohol should prompt you to take action, by either confronting the co-worker if you feel comfortable doing so, and/or their supervisor.
    As a licenced professional, you should feel compelled to safeguard the public's safety by ensuring she does not practice her care on patients while under the influence, and in many jurisdictions, you can be held liable for any wrongdoing on your co-worker's part just by having previouis knowledge of her 'problem' and the fact that you never took action.
    Although I agree with some of the above statements, the OP has nothing more to go on than smelling alcohol on a co-workers breath.

    An RN smelling what he/she believes to be alcohol on someone is hardly conclusive of anything and nowhere even close to being "evidence based" suspicion.
    It's nothing more than an RN assessment based on smell.
    For a nurse to automatically make a determination that this smell alone with no other "evidence" present is from alcohol abuse is pure speculation at best.

    If you believe it is serious enough to warrant going to a supervisior about, then you're going to need a heck of a lot more than some RN assessment of smell. Erratic behavior, disappearing from the unit for prolonged periods, illogical charting, slurred speech, passing out at the nurse's station, reports of the above from patients/family members, etc. is what you need to be reporting.

    and in many jurisdictions, you can be held liable for any wrongdoing on your co-worker's part just by having previouis knowledge of her 'problem' and the fact that you never took action.
    If you want to talk about liability, starting trouble by going to supervisors or others with "evidence based suspicions" that consist of nothing more than smelling what might be alcohol that spreads rumors like wildfire across the hospital is called slander and defamation of character.
    Substantial damages can and have been awarded in many jurisdictions for that.

    Playing with someone's reputation and livelihood and disguising it as a "Florence Nightingale" style "I'm just protecting the patients at all costs" mentality can really damage someone who never deserved it and the damage can be, and often is, irreversible.

    If you are wrong, it's not something you can apologize for later and make it all go away.
  3. 0
    Quote from RN34TX
    Although I agree with some of the above statements, the OP has nothing more to go on than smelling alcohol on a co-workers breath.

    An RN smelling what he/she believes to be alcohol on someone is hardly conclusive of anything and nowhere even close to being "evidence based" suspicion.
    It's nothing more than an RN assessment based on smell.
    For a nurse to automatically make a determination that this smell alone with no other "evidence" present is from alcohol abuse is pure speculation at best.

    If you believe it is serious enough to warrant going to a supervisior about, then you're going to need a heck of a lot more than some RN assessment of smell. Erratic behavior, disappearing from the unit for prolonged periods, illogical charting, slurred speech, passing out at the nurse's station, reports of the above from patients/family members, etc. is what you need to be reporting.


    If you want to talk about liability, starting trouble by going to supervisors or others with "evidence based suspicions" that consist of nothing more than smelling what might be alcohol that spreads rumors like wildfire across the hospital is called slander and defamation of character.
    Substantial damages can and have been awarded in many jurisdictions for that.

    Playing with someone's reputation and livelihood and disguising it as a "Florence Nightingale" style "I'm just protecting the patients at all costs" mentality can really damage someone who never deserved it and the damage can be, and often is, irreversible.

    If you are wrong, it's not something you can apologize for later and make it all go away.
    I disagree. We had a nurse on our floor who once smelled of alcohol on her breath. The nurse who smelled it told the nursing supervisor when she came to check on our floor. She said the nurse who told her did the right thing in coming to her first. She said not to ever confront the person you suspect yourself because you never know how they are going to react and that you should always report it to management first and let them do the investigating/question asking. This puts you out of harm's way should that person want to retaliate. There are a lot of alcoholics who you can't even tell are drinking unless you happen to catch them when they aren't drunk.

    There are all kinds of things we can what it is with our sense of smell. Sure, this could be ketoacidosis, but what if it isn't? Let the higher ups find that out and just report what it smells like to you.
  4. 0
    Agree that smell is not the best way to determine the nurse is intoxicated.
    The above poster has much better plan of action for staff if they truly think this nurse is alcohol impared on duty.
  5. 0
    Just to clarify, I never stated that I believed the smell of alcohol to be enough evidence to conclude a person has been consuming alcohol.
    When I spoke of evidence-based suspisions, I perhaps more clearly should have stated that a nurse should utilize their best judgement and assessment skills to safely be able to suspect or conclude. There are certainly many indicators of drug/alcohol abuse that any nurse should be confident in assessing for.
  6. 0
    Just because the nurse did not act impaired, doesn't mean she wasn't impaired. People who are chemically dependent can have quite a bit on board before it actually impairs them, while non-dependent people who use the same amount would be knocked out under the table. What's even scarier is the person who needs a certain amount of chemical in order to function at all.

    Yes, this nurse could be completely innocent. I would much rather go to the boss and let her investigate and be wrong than not say anything and have a pt harmed. By going to the NM, the OP can remain anonymous.


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