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How do I handle this?

Nurses   (3,015 Views 22 Comments)
by clee1 clee1 (Member)

clee1 specializes in Hospice, Med/Surg, ICU, ER.

7,044 Profile Views; 832 Posts

The other night, my charge nurse called the two other nurses (other than myself) aside and asked them if they smelled alcohol on my breath.

After the shift was over, and we all left the facility, I received calls from these other two nurses, within minutes of each other, telling me what had happened.

To say the least, I was boiling mad! :angryfire I take the ethical and legal aspects of our profession VERY seriously. I rarely drink alcohol at all, and NEVER, EVER before going on duty and certainly not while on duty. Let me say that I am a smoker, and when I return from a smoke break, I use breath mints, hand-sanitizer on my hands/arms, and Fabreeze in my scubs so I don't reek when I walk into a pt's room.

At the time, I considered turning right around and marching into the directors office to demand a blood alcohol test.

I worked with this charge nurse again tonight and very seriously considered confronting her. The very last thing I want is this kind of rumor floating around my facility.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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152 Posts; 3,052 Profile Views

Go to your charge nurse directly, and ask her!!! See what she says...

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256 Posts; 2,796 Profile Views

If it were me, I'd ask her directly. You deserve to know why she was thinking that, and to defend yourself and your reputation. That's my opinion. It would have bothered me to the point, that I would have gone back and demanded an alcohol test too. Good luck! Let us know what you end up doing and how it went.

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6,487 Posts; 21,377 Profile Views

Demanding a test is exactly what you should have done. Anytime there is a question about sobriety, demand that you be tested at their expense.

I would also suggest that you confront this charge nurse and ask her if she did indeed ask that question. If she admits to it, insist that if she ever suspects anyone of being under the influence, to just send the employee to the lab to be tested. What if these nurses weren't friendly with you? With just being asked that question they could have sabotaged you so bad at your facility by spreading rumors. You're lucky they told you instead.

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bigsyis specializes in ER, Occupational Health, Cardiology.

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It is possible that she might have smelled the perfumed disinfectant gel that you use on your hands and arms and THOUGHT that she smelled ETOH. Obviously she isn't very practiced at that sort of thing, or she would know the difference.

I would NOT confront this woman. I WOULD recommend that you make your Manager aware of this, and that the two of you talk with the Charge Nurse together. You need to get right to the root of this issue-as you said, your reputation is at stake. Just remember-no confrontations, no recriminations. Take it through channels, and be sure that everything is documented. Let us know how it turns out.

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clee1 specializes in Hospice, Med/Surg, ICU, ER.

832 Posts; 7,044 Profile Views

Ok folks, I appreciate the validation.

I will ask the charge nurse tonight about it and depending on the answer/reasoning given, I'll escalate this up the food chain.

I am grateful that my coworkers came to me with this. On this particular night, the charge nurse was in a foul mood from the beginning of the shift. There may also be an element of "pay-back" in her questioning of my sobriety, as I recently reported a friend of hers (an agency nurse on our unit) for substandard care and falsification of documentation, resulting in the agency nurse losing her contract at our facility.

If the situation were reversed, I'd have security escort the suspected nurse to the lab for testing; I surely wouldn't ask other coworkers behind another nurse's back!

I'll update you all soon.

Thanks! You AllNurses rock!

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1,343 Posts; 5,651 Profile Views

It is possible that she might have smelled the perfumed disinfectant gel that you use on your hands and arms and THOUGHT that she smelled ETOH. Obviously she isn't very practiced at that sort of thing, or she would know the difference.

I would NOT confront this woman. I WOULD recommend that you make your Manager aware of this, and that the two of you talk with the Charge Nurse together. You need to get right to the root of this issue-as you said, your reputation is at stake. Just remember-no confrontations, no recriminations. Take it through channels, and be sure that everything is documented. Let us know how it turns out.

Wouldn't the first channel be the alleged "asker" of the question?

I agree that the OP needs to protect herself. I think she should file a c/o with Administration/HR because of the CN's approach. I really don't know if she should confront the CN or go to the Manager or what. Whatever approach she takes, it's bound to be a mess.

Just me - I can't stand the smell of Febreze and the alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

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303 Posts; 4,414 Profile Views

Ok folks, I appreciate the validation.

I will ask the charge nurse tonight about it and depending on the answer/reasoning given, I'll escalate this up the food chain.

I am grateful that my coworkers came to me with this. On this particular night, the charge nurse was in a foul mood from the beginning of the shift. There may also be an element of "pay-back" in her questioning of my sobriety, as I recently reported a friend of hers (an agency nurse on our unit) for substandard care and falsification of documentation, resulting in the agency nurse losing her contract at our facility.

If the situation were reversed, I'd have security escort the suspected nurse to the lab for testing; I surely wouldn't ask other coworkers behind another nurse's back!

I'll update you all soon.

Thanks! You AllNurses rock!

Oh geez, sounds like this had something to do with it.

Yes, your reputation is at stake, workplace gossip gets around whether there is any grain of truth to it all. Confront the charge nurse and also involve your manager in this.

I work for a unionized hospital and this charge nurse would likely be reprimanded by my union if she did something like this. Asking other people and not asking you?? Geez

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149 Posts; 2,308 Profile Views

We just got the new alcohol/hand sanitizer stuff at work and I thought the maintenance man had been drinking when he got into the elevater with me. It took me a few seconds to realize that he had most likely used the sanitizer dispenser by the elevator while waiting on the elevator to arrive!

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bigsyis specializes in ER, Occupational Health, Cardiology.

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Wouldn't the first channel be the alleged "asker" of the question?]

Only if you want to open a can of worms that you might later wish you hadn't. If that Charge Nurse DOES have a personal axe to grind, she would just love an encounter like that. Then, it would be her word against her accused's. When I was a Charge Nurse, my Manager and I always talked with folks together about any problem of significance. If it was a problem that I perceived, the Staff Nurse wanted addressed, or one that the Manager herself wanted to take care of, we always did it together. It isn't quite so easy to lose your temper and act unprofessionally in front of someone in Management, and there will be written documentation of the entire thing.

To me, it is not worth the risk to possibly further pi-- that woman off, and she will likely get some definitive resolution of the matter.

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3,270 Posts; 17,167 Profile Views

I CANNOT STAND backstabbers, and this is essentially what she was doing, going behind your back and making accusations/assumptions.

I would confront her and in front of anyone who happened to be there. I would let her know, furthermore, that backstabbing is not a virtue and if she has issues next time take it up with with the person she is making assumptions about.

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Just to play devil's advocate; maybe she was unsure, she smelled something on you that she thought was alcohol, but she wasn't sure, and so she asked another co-worker.

Sure, she should have asked you personally. But maybe she thought that, if she did that, she would have to send you down for a drug/ETOH screen, and she didn't want to put you through that. Maybe she knows she isn't very good at recognizing ETOH on someone and didn't want to paint you with that brush without a second opinion.

I agree, it wasn't professionally handled; but it might not necessarily have been malicious, either.

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