Nurses Who Are Drug Addicts - page 7

I work with a nurse who I suspect is using drugs, and I think she is stealing them from the facility. Of those of you that have encountered this problem, what were the signs and symptoms? Thanks.... Read More

  1. by   Cattitude
    Quote from sheilagh
    Their but for the grace of God go I, you never know what will happen in your life,you may dismiss recovering nurses as unworthy,but what about the nurse that may give negligent care and not think twice because they don't care,or the nurse that may abuse their family at home and you have no clue when you work with them! Recovering addict nurses have bleed sweat and tears to keep uor license and work under such stringent rules that most non addict nurses would crack under them.
    I just hope someday when you need someone's forgiveness they don't judge you too harshly
    You make very good points and I completely agree with you when you say "you never know what will happen in your life".
    How true that is. None of us in recovery ever planned to become addicts. It really can happen to anyone.

    Congrats on 18 months Clean and keep moving forward!!!:spin:
  2. by   kmblue39
    Funny how words can be twisted around. I never said drug addicted nurses aren't worthy. I said get help, get in recovery, and then get a nursing job where there isn't a need to be exposed to narcotics. Of course all those things are true. No one ever knows everything that is going on is someones life. Of course deliberately negligent or abusive nurses should be reported and take the consequences. Everyone should no matter what the situation. Why would someone want to go back to work where there are narcotics readily available all the time? To prove they are more worthy because they are having to fight the temptation to keep from falling off the wagon? I'm sure the drunk driver never meant to become an alcololic and end up killing the little kid at the bus stop. I'm sweating bloody tears trying to keep my license under the load of responsibility I have. Does that make me less worthy than the nurse who has abused the trust placed in them by their patients, coworkers, families, administration, america?
  3. by   Cattitude
    Quote from kmblue39
    Funny how words can be twisted around. I never said drug addicted nurses aren't worthy. I said get help, get in recovery, and then get a nursing job where there isn't a need to be exposed to narcotics. Of course all those things are true. No one ever knows everything that is going on is someones life. Of course deliberately negligent or abusive nurses should be reported and take the consequences. Everyone should no matter what the situation. Why would someone want to go back to work where there are narcotics readily available all the time? To prove they are more worthy because they are having to fight the temptation to keep from falling off the wagon? I'm sure the drunk driver never meant to become an alcololic and end up killing the little kid at the bus stop. I'm sweating bloody tears trying to keep my license under the load of responsibility I have. Does that make me less worthy than the nurse who has abused the trust placed in them by their patients, coworkers, families, administration, america?
    KM I don't think anyone was trying to twist words around and this is definitely a sensitive subject. It's understandeable that you have been hurt by this in the past.

    Many times nurses in recovery do *not* return to working back around narcs. Or have limited exposure like myself. Sometimes they do, it just depends on circumstances. Its not always feasible to say that a nurse in recovery should never, ever work around narcs again. I understand the burden it places on coworkers for 6 months or so to have to give out that nurse's narcs but usually the recovering nurse will trade off duties and do something for you in exchange. The nurse is 1000 x mortified to be around you and the rest of the staff, believe me. Every shift is like torture, having to prove themselves to nurses that despise them. You can never imagine.

    If you are sweating bloody tears trying to keep your license (and not really sure why you are doing that?) then the recovering nurse is flogged daily trying to keep hers. Giving urines 1-3x week. Monitoring reports, multiple support meetings,NA,AA, EAP,oh and the $$ . The recovering nurse pays dearly, financially, emotionally, and spiritually.

    No I'm not writing this to invoke any empathy. Just info, thats all.
  4. by   happybunny1970
    Not to mention, I have seen Board Orders in Texas that explicitly state the nurse has to work providing hands-on care in some very specific settings -- no paperwork jobs allowed (insurance, case manager, education). So jobs that don't have ANY access to narcotics are not an option, unless they want to give up their license altogether.

    I say more power to them, and I provisionally trust someone until they give me reason not to.
  5. by   kmblue39
    You know I never thought about it like that. I never knew the restrictions. And yes, I still feel violated. Sweating bloody tears was just a figure of speech for how hard nurses work today what with the patient loads and the fact that patients are sicker now and Press Gainey scores, etc. We all work hard to function at the highest level possible and still try to accommodate everyone's needs. Earlier, thinking about having to supervise a recovering nurse on top of all the other responsibilities felt like just too much to ask. A busy Ortho/Surg floor is already filled to capacity with work. Everyone wants everything at the exact same time and they just added a new piece of paperwork, the DVT screening tool, lol.
  6. by   pebbles
    Quote from kmblue39
    As a nurse who worked with a nurse last year who was diverting narcotics I can tell you that I greatly resented being put in that postion of working with that nurse, depending on them at night as integral part of the healthcare team, and not knowing how they put all of their coworkers and patients at risk. I don't care if they are functioning 'normally'. And I would have a hard time ever trusting them again. Of course they didn't mean to do it, and never meant to cause any harm. Just like the drunk driver who injures or kills someone didn't mean to harm anyone. You shouldn't be working under the influence or driving under the influence. My two cents worth being said, I can tell you from personal experience some of the symptoms:
    -pink pad/towel on the floor of the shower in the staff bathroom.
    -very helpful to the point of doing things for you, without even being asked.
    -Wearing long sleeved shirts under the scrub top and NEVER rolling the sleeves up, evem during the messiest of tasks.
    -Signing the MAR for nartotics not supposed to give (LVN=no IV narcs.)
    -Stable pts. not on pain meds for days then all of a sudden getting them as often as ordered.
    -Narcotics taken out on your patients that you don't know about/didn't give.
    -Taking PCA syringes out on patients already discharged. (Profile stays in the machine for a while after D/C).
    -Frequent trips 'downstairs' or frequently disappearing for any length of time.
    -taking the 'wrong' narcotic out, 'putting it back' and then the next person to take the 'wrong' one out creats a discrepancy.
    -VERY hyperactive behavior.
    I reported it and would do so again if necessary to protect my patients and coworkers. I'm all for recovery, etc., etc., but why should I now have to cover a recovering addict for all narcotics admin. on his/her patients when I have my own patients to cover, any LVN's, on the floor, and agency nurses (who aren't allowed to access the nacotics). Seems to me better for everyone concerned to get help, get in recovery, and then return to work in a setting free of all narcotics. Sorry this is so long. Still traumatized over last years events.
    I agree with everytjing you wrote. Well said.

    When it happened on my unit (years ago), management "knew" but she had not been caught in the act. So when they confronted her, she was able to deny it, and our union (GRRR) supported her in her fight to return to work. It was a big "open secret" that we had am impaired nurse on the unit. We were ALL sick and frightened every time we worked with her. I would go all day with no break sometimes, just so I wouldn't risk her near my patients. We all kept an eye on her patients. One day a pt with PCA morphine lost all pain control, and had to be aneasthetized and have an epidural put in to get his pain back under control - she mixed his PCA with only saline.

    I can never forgive these events. I cannot forgive the nurse in question, and I cannot forgive my management for not dealing with it more effectively.

    And yes, I do know that "addiction is an illness". This nurse was pressured so much that she eventually quit and became someone else's problem. Then she killed herslf by overdose (left a note) IN her new workplace supply room. Maybe if managers had better dealt with it in the first place, that could have been prevented. We'll never know.

    Knowing that these impaired and addicted nurses are in their own struggle does nothing to lessen the upset that happened in my own workplace when patients were in jeopardy, and staff were unfairly placed in a position of protecting our own and someone else's patients from harm.
  7. by   Cattitude
    Quote from pebbles
    I agree with everytjing you wrote. Well said.

    When it happened on my unit (years ago), management "knew" but she had not been caught in the act. So when they confronted her, she was able to deny it, and our union (GRRR) supported her in her fight to return to work. It was a big "open secret" that we had am impaired nurse on the unit. We were ALL sick and frightened every time we worked with her. I would go all day with no break sometimes, just so I wouldn't risk her near my patients. We all kept an eye on her patients. One day a pt with PCA morphine lost all pain control, and had to be aneasthetized and have an epidural put in to get his pain back under control - she mixed his PCA with only saline.

    I can never forgive these events. I cannot forgive the nurse in question, and I cannot forgive my management for not dealing with it more effectively.

    And yes, I do know that "addiction is an illness". This nurse was pressured so much that she eventually quit and became someone else's problem. Then she killed herslf by overdose (left a note) IN her new workplace supply room. Maybe if managers had better dealt with it in the first place, that could have been prevented. We'll never know.

    Knowing that these impaired and addicted nurses are in their own struggle does nothing to lessen the upset that happened in my own workplace when patients were in jeopardy, and staff were unfairly placed in a position of protecting our own and someone else's patients from harm.
    Hearing that a nurse killed herself fills me with complete sadness.

    I ask you Pebbles and KM also and anyone else that has been hurt or affected on the job and does not trust or ever want to work with another nurse in recovery. What do you do with a recovering nurse? Just tell them to give up their career? I am asking seriously. I know the systems in place now are not perfect but they are getting better each and every day.

    The systems we have now are still fairly new. Some states still don't even have programs for recovering nurses. Hopefully in time it will be even better than it is now.

    If a nurse has an excellent chance at making it especially with support than why not? Many nurses that are not addicts already work ON narcs or taking psych meds to function. Many nurses get support for having every other single illness. Even nurses that did NOT divert get frowned upon.

    And just what if it ever happened to you? Or someone close to you(family) Would you want their/your career taken away?

    I do understand the patient safety aspect and that is why it is so important for strict monitoring guidelines to be in place during early recovery. I am thankful for those that do support though I do understand those that don't.
  8. by   pebbles
    Quote from Cattitude
    Hearing that a nurse killed herself fills me with complete sadness.

    I ask you Pebbles and KM also and anyone else that has been hurt or affected on the job and does not trust or ever want to work with another nurse in recovery. What do you do with a recovering nurse? Just tell them to give up their career? I am asking seriously. I know the systems in place now are not perfect but they are getting better each and every day.

    The systems we have now are still fairly new. Some states still don't even have programs for recovering nurses. Hopefully in time it will be even better than it is now.

    If a nurse has an excellent chance at making it especially with support than why not? Many nurses that are not addicts already work ON narcs or taking psych meds to function. Many nurses get support for having every other single illness. Even nurses that did NOT divert get frowned upon.

    And just what if it ever happened to you? Or someone close to you(family) Would you want their/your career taken away?

    I do understand the patient safety aspect and that is why it is so important for strict monitoring guidelines to be in place during early recovery. I am thankful for those that do support though I do understand those that don't.
    I have never seen a situation where a nurse was actually supported (and SUPERVISED) after admitting there is a problem. I would not support it in the (very acute and critical care) areas I have worked in, there is too much going on, too much pressure and too much chance to slip. But I am open to nurses who have admitted their problem and gotten treatment coming back to work in a supported way, and as long as there is adequate supervision.

    You see, the nurses I have seen who came to work impaired or stole and used drugs that were meant for patients - to me, by doing that, they violated trust. They proved that they would not admit the problem, that they would hide it, sweep it under the rug and try to act like nothing was amiss. I know that's part of the nature of addiction. But it also makes me less likely to trust that this person can be safe in the workplace on a permanent basis. When I have not had enough sleep or feel sick and do not think I can be safe to practice, I call in sick. These nurses do not. They come to work anyway.

    To me, this is not a "you're an addict - boo!" type of judgment. It's a "you were unsafe and did not admit it and protect your patients, how can I trust you to be safe in the future" thing.

    Frankly, some nurses who have problems should definitely consider getting out of patient care areas if their problems create such difficulties. Addicted or other problems. Patient safety has to come first. Having said that, I don't know what the support systems are like. Where I work, I would not trust my management to enact such a support system safely. But every facility is different.

    I've seen a member of my family slip off the addiction wagon numerous times. And knowing that an addicted person will almost always try to hide it if they do develop the problem again. Sorry, but I would always not trust someone if I knew they'd had a problem in the past.
  9. by   Cattitude
    Quote from pebbles
    I
    You see, the nurses I have seen who came to work impaired or stole and used drugs that were meant for patients - to me, by doing that, they violated trust. They proved that they would not admit the problem, that they would hide it, sweep it under the rug and try to act like nothing was amiss. I know that's part of the nature of addiction. But it also makes me less likely to trust that this person can be safe in the workplace on a permanent basis. When I have not had enough sleep or feel sick and do not think I can be safe to practice, I call in sick. These nurses do not. They come to work anyway.

    To me, this is not a "you're an addict - boo!" type of judgment. It's a "you were unsafe and did not admit it and protect your patients, how can I trust you to be safe in the future" thing.

    .
    I thank you for your honesty. Yes the above is part of the addiction. You don't really KNOW unless you are experiencing that unrelenting compulsion. No nurse WANTS to steal or shortchange her patients, the disease overwhelms and whispers "it's ok".
    Oh I know there are plenty that will scoff and say "yea right, they could have stopped". It's very easy to quarterback, very simple to judge.

    Another major factor of why addicted nurses don't get help earlier is that they don't know how. I didn't know what help was available. I thought I was the only one, an outcast. I would have gotten help MUCH sooner had I known where the help was. In every single med room there should be a number for EAP and any other relevant help number.
    Nurses that are addicted to opiates also face another huge battle. Withdrawal. Sometimes the fear of withdrawal is so great that even when the desire to stop and get help is there, you can't. Withdrawal can be worse than death. You feel like you've been run over and then thrown into a blender. Many, many times, I tried to stop and got so sick, I used just NOT to be so sick.

    An addicted nurse is a sick nurse, there's no comparison to a nurse that hasn't had sleep or has the flu. There, you have somone who is still thinking rationally. Addiction robs you of rational thought.

    Your workplace sounds like IT needs work when it comes to supporting recovering nurses. Many others do as well and this is one area that needs a lot of change. Hopefully it will get much better.
  10. by   gitterbug
    <TABLE id=HB_Mail_Container height="100%" cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width="100%" border=0 UNSELECTABLE="on"><TBODY><TR height="100%" width="100%" UNSELECTABLE="on"><TD id=HB_Focus_Element vAlign=top width="100%" background="" height=250 UNSELECTABLE="off">Years and years ago, on my first real job as a nurse, I was working nights and was working with a nurse who had a drug problem. It was an open secret to all of the staff even the supervisor. I was not advised of this, and freaked out when a whole pack of Demerol 50 mg IM vials came up missing at 0400am. My patient needed a shot, I went to the drug cabinet and no meds, I called the super and she calmly came to the floor and asked this nurse to return the meds to the drug cabinet, which she did. NOTHING
    was said or done to this nurse, the next AM I was asked to keep an eye on her when we were working together! Who were they kidding? I was new, green, and scared to death of being blamed for stealing drugs. I walked out and never went back. Now I realize I should have reported this to the boards, but at the time, I was so green I did not know where to turn. Today I would do things differently but that incident left a hugh scar on me and I am still paranoid if drugs come up missing. The nurse retired about a year later but I will always wonder how many patients suffered because no one confronted this problem.
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  11. by   sissiesmama
    I have been reading this thread since its beginning, and just wanted to bring up just a few points. I am an RN and in recovery. I have over 6 years clean time. My husband is also an RN with only a few months longer clean time.

    To kmblue and pebbles - I understand you have valid comments, but the feelings you describe regarding working on a busy unit with a nurse either suspected or one in "the program", I wish you could walk just a couple of feet in their shoes and feel the anxiety and apprehension that we all feel not just starting a new job or even going back to work at the facility where they were "popped". Because some of us come in and see the looks on the faces of nurses that think like you and we know most of what you are thinking, even though nothing may be said. Every time we come to one of the nurses to give narcs for us, surely you know how degrading it is to have to do this. Now I am not saying that it may not be warranted, and I am not trying to deny the fact that I stole drugs and was under the influence at work, and driving home still under the influence. But if you could realize how hard it is for us, not to mention the fact that a lot of places when there is a question or the possibility of a missing drug, even if it is just the fact that someone just miscounted, we know that almost all eyes are on us, and we know what the others are thinking. It is not a good feeling, and yes, we know we did something very wrong to be in that situation.

    Secondly, to Cattitude (sp?) come work with me any time! You are great and your postings regarding this are more eloquent than mine.

    We are just trying to repair our professional reputation and gain back some of the trust we lost.

    Anne, RNC
  12. by   Cattitude
    Quote from busyrnandmom
    Secondly, to Cattitude (sp?) come work with me any time! You are great and your postings regarding this are more eloquent than mine.

    Anne, RNC
    Thank you! I am just writing from my heart and it took a long time to get where I am. I would love to one day be an integral part of the change in dealing with addicted nurses and also educationg others.

    I think a big part of the problem is truly accepting this as a disease. Even I didn't, early in my illness. I thought I "misused drugs". That addiction was something you "chose" to do. Even while I was doing it!!! It took a long time before I could accept that I was sick, had an obsession and compulsion that I couldn't control.
    My addiction is my tumor and my support groups, therapy etc are my radiation. Without my treatment, the tumor grows and becomes unmanageable.

    And also, I really don't think that people believe it can happen to anyone. I think that they somehow feel that maybe we were meant to turn bad or had tendencies or something. If anyone here could see my support group you would just see a bunch of normal looking nurses. No ones background sounds harsh or predetermined to a life of drugs/alcohol. It really can happen to anyone.
  13. by   pickledpepperRN
    I was asked to orient a nurse who had been terminated from another hospital for taking Vicodin.
    Her union representative had encouraged her to participate in the BRN diversion program.http://www.rn.ca.gov/div/div.htm

    She never told me details but it was more than two years of treatment before she got her license back. Then she had taken a refresher course. She had been a critica care nurse before.
    She was still not allowed to give controlled substances.
    Many of my fellow nurses were sceptical but after more than a decade she is our friend and valued colleague.
    Any time one of us needs help with a bath, pulling up a patient in bed, entering orders, or bringing supplies to a room she can be counted on.
    In exchange we give controlled substances to her patients.
    Although she is now allowed to we are happy to do so.

    It is so sad that a nurse who wasn't forced into treatment killed herself.
    Statistically licensed nurses who admit their addiction and seek treatment have the highest rate of success of any other group. Much better than physicians.
    Success does not only mean staying clean. It is considered a failure if the person leaves the program or stops going to meetings.

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