Impaired Nurses - page 6

I've just recently learned about a program for nurses that may need help with a drug or alcohol problem known as the impaired nurses. I was just wondering what your thoughts were on this subject. ... Read More

  1. by   time4meRN
    It's not the confirmed recovery alcholics-addicts we need to worry about,(if they are in recovery) it's the alcoholics/addict that hasn't been discovered yet that we have to worry about. They are the ones who are going to work, store, on the road everyday and all without anyone knowing. Did you see research saying that the most prevelent growth of meth addicts are soccer moms. How many soccer moms are nurses.
  2. by   willykittyRN
    I have been in the Voluntary Recovery Program in Pennsylvania nearly 3years. One of my urine screens has shown positive for a substance unknown, the VRP does not disclose. I have not relapsed in any way. I believe I ingested a sugar alcohol sweetner in diet candy that may have caused this reading. The Board will not accept my explanation...I don't know what to do.....this is devastating. If I had used I would tell them. I am very happy in my recovery. Up to this point my record has been perfect with them. Now my permission to work as an RN is on hold pending public discipline.....I am innocent and have no idea how to navigate this situation.... They want yet another explanation of my"relapse" by Oct 3,2008......there is nothing more I can tell them. Any feedback on this problem would be helpful. Thank you.
  3. by   PRESLA
    willykittyrn, i am so sorry to hear about you situation. my suggestion is if you suggest a drug test done on your hair and that is a sure fire way to prove that you have not done anything. it will require you to give a hair sample and that will give them a 6 month history of proof of no drug use. check it out online. it can be expensive but it will hold up in court. and then if you are 100% clean and theywill not accept that option, get a lawyer.

    you have done a wonderful job staying clean for 3 yrs and that is a great accomplishment. in my expereince with my board they are unforgiving and are only interested in making you fill like a criminal. i know they have they put public saftey first, but recovering nurses need to be on the panels when reviewing individual cases as to the punishment.:deadhorse

    also remember some food may make you test + for substances. sobi (spelling??) has a drink that can cause you to test + for meth.

    good luck

    lisa p
    Last edit by PRESLA on Sep 25, '08 : Reason: spelling
  4. by   willykittyRN
    Thank you so much PRESLA. I will heed your advice. There is a clause in my contract that implies I cannot litigate with the Board.... I need to see if that is an absolute. I sure do feel like a criminal. I feel like I did right in the very beginning of my recovery. Yuck. Thank you again, stay in touch.
  5. by   NickiLaughs
    This is an interesting thread, and opinions will always differ.
    I am responding to this post as a nurse and as the daughter of a opiate addict/alcoholic.
    I believe that our first duty is patient safety. I am aware that nurses who become addicted, while the first time of the drug may have been a choice, the subsequent addiction that followed was not.
    We are human, and I guaruntee most of the population is addicted to some substance, whether it be caffiene, sugar or heroin. Obviously the consequences of these substances differ.
    There are rehabilitation programs for people in various careers, and nursing should not be an exception.
    However, in nursing, there are much higher risks than there are in say, computer programming. A computer programmer may costs millions of dollars in a computer code error, where as a nurse may kill a patient, which is priceless.
    Another thing that should be considered, there are MANY areas of nursing where patient care is not directly done. Perhaps these nurses should be fitted in a pertient area to reduce their risk of relapse (the drugs are not available) and the patients are safe.
  6. by   Iam46yearsold
    Quote from TazziRN
    Ahhh, but you contradict yourself here.....first you say we should be monitored, but then you say that if we didn't divert we shouldn't be monitored for the rest of our careers. I'm sorry, but nurses who are addicted are addicted. It shouldn't matter if we diverted from the facility or not, if you feel that we should be monitored then don't distinguish between those of us who diverted and those who didn't. And one more thing: if we should be monitored for the rest of our careers because we are addicted to a chemical, then drunk drivers should never ever ever get their licenses back either. Fair?

    I agree with you that drunk drivers should never get their licenses back either. I also agree with you that whether they divert drugs or not, if they are addicts they should be monitored.

    I always try to be agreeable.
  7. by   azhiker96
    We just lost a nurse from my unit to drug abuse. A year ago I would have ranked her as one of our top nurses and would have been comfortable letting her care for my kids, not now though.

    I hope she works with our BON to complete their addicted nurse rehab program and is able to return to nursing. The program is tough; 3 years, dependency treatment, random testing for drugs/alcohol, AA/NA meetings, support groups, workplace monitoring, etc. If she completes it successfully then yes, I would love to see her back in our unit.
  8. by   NurseDiane
    I've read almost all of the posts on this issue, dating all the way back to 2003......

    And I have to say that in reading some of the posts, it is sickening and very sad that nurses can place blame and judge other nurses, say that they don't trust them, they wouldn't want a recovering nurse taking care of their family and that they don't belong in nursing anymore. This is the exact reason why nurses are afraid to come forward and ask for help---because of the stigma that substance abuse issues carries with it and the judgment from other people. How other nurses can sit back and criticize and judge and point fingers instead of saying that they would want to help that person in any way they could is honestly very disturbing and disheartening to me. I don't point my finger at a nurse who is obviously obese and judge her, whisper about how her thighs jiggle when she walks and how slow she is because of her weight, even when I see her shoving a piece of cake into her mouth, or a nurse who has asthma and goes out to smoke every half hour. Nobody is perfect, and life happens to everybody. We all have our downfalls The majority of times, substance abuse is only a symptom of something else that is much deeper and more complicated than any of those people judging could ever understand. I am sure we work with many nurses every day who are being treated for clinincal depression, bi-polar disorder, ADHD or some other psychiatric disorder, and we have no idea that they are taking medications to manage them. They aren't judged. If any "strange" behavior is noticed, it is written off as "having a bad day" or "PMS" or "What's up with her?" It is frequently not out in the open, because people would be judged for that too. Substance abuse, in many cases, happens to be a manifestation of a psychiatric issue that has gone undiagnosed---and, yes, perhaps the nurse has denied that they have some kind of psychiatric issue, for many reasons, but a main reason being that psychiatric issues STILL carry a major stigma with them and they don't want to be stigmatized and judged----but isn't that when they need support and help the most? To see that revealing their problems will result in everyone talking behind their back and smiling to their face is why people don't reach out for help when they really need it most, for the fear of being judged and stigmatized. Somehow, obesity, smoking, caffeine addiction are not looked at as "problems"----and I do realize that for the most part, won't result in any type of danger to the patients----but, I find that people with those problems happen to be the first people who do the whispering behind backs and finger-pointing. Everybody has their problems----and if you don't, then God Bless you, you are damn near perfect. Nurses with substance abuse issues are looked at as "dirty" and "incompetent", even if they are extremely competent, experienced and skillful, and somehow other nurses seem to think that having a substance abuse issue lessens that nurse's abilities, when that is not at all true. Substance abuse and addiction happens to be an official diagnosis in the DSM-IV, so for those of you who say it is the nurse's fault and they are solely to blame for taking the drugs you couldn't be any further from the truth!! As nurses, we all know that people with psychiatric disorders have trouble with decision making, impulsive behaviors and bad choices, and they should be treated for their DISEASE!! Until substance abuse and addiction is looked at as what it is---A DISEASE---by our own peers, the judging and whispering and finger pointing will continue.

    A person who is in recovery from substance abuse and/or addiction, in my opinion, is a much stronger person than I am. I will help them in any way they need---whether that be just listening or helping them with narcotic administration or giving them a ride to an AA meeting. I find that nurses are a group tend to be very judgemental, it's the nature of the beast when you deal with a profession that has so many women. We shouldn't try to be punitive, we should try to be helpful and supportive, because that is what they need the most.
  9. by   NurseDiane
    Quote from willykittyRN
    Thank you so much PRESLA. I will heed your advice. There is a clause in my contract that implies I cannot litigate with the Board.... I need to see if that is an absolute. I sure do feel like a criminal. I feel like I did right in the very beginning of my recovery. Yuck. Thank you again, stay in touch.

    I don't know how to PM you, since I just joined this group today but........I am curious to know how your case turned out. I find it VERY INTERESTING that in your contract you cannot litigate with the Board----I wonder why they feel it is necessary to put that in there? If the Board felt comfortable in their decisions, they would not need to put that kind of clause in anyone's contract!! Even so...........I don't know what happened (I hope it wasn't a negative outcome), but if I were you I would have done some research regarding that "clause" about not litigating with the Board. Their should be some sort of legal appeals process in every state to challenge the decision of any regulatory body, whether that be nurses, police, firemen, teachers, etc., especially when it comes to licensed professionals.

    Please let me know what happened.
  10. by   sissiesmama
    Hi NurseDiane - Welcome! I am glad to see you here with us. I have been a nurse since 1991 and was diverting narcotics at work in 1999. A lot of the staff - co workers and so called friends acted like they were scared I was contagious, I guess guilt by association. People smiling at your face, then knifing you in the back when you turned around. I left that facility when I went to treatment and found another job (eventually) after the BON approved me to work. I had been around other nurses in my situation before I got caught, but tried to not judge, I didn't know their situation, what led them to this, ect. I always had hoped I would get the same. Wrong, in a lot of people's eyes. Oh, well.

    So, I made it through, and will celebrate 10 years in recovery on August 15th of this year. It sure would have been nice to have met someone like you at work when I was going through all that.

    Anne, RNC
  11. by   BEDPAN76
    Yes, NurseDiane, I agree with everything Anne said! :yeahthat: And we're really glad to have you join us here at allnurses!

  12. by   NurseDiane
    Thanks Anne and "bedpan"!!! (I am laughing at even typing the word bedpan....LOL)

    Listen, I guess with age comes wisdom, and in my years of life on this earth, one thing that I've learned is ALL OF US, no matter who we are, cannot claim to be saints---and who in the hell am I to pass judgment on anybody? We all need help every now and then, and we are going to base giving our aissistance on WHAT exactly the problem is that someone needs help with? Sometimes life tears us apart----and I find that nurses are a very proud group of people, not asking for help lest they be cast in a light of not being "strong", and that is not the case at all. It is the strength inside of us that gives us the guts to ask for help.

    In life and in nursing, I have found that the less people know the better off I am!! However, I have gotten to the point that I honestly do not care what they know and what they don't know---if they want to be superficial and shallow, passing judgment and whispering behind my back, then they can certainly do that. I, on the other hand, choose not to take part in petty gossip----because over the years I have seen what kinds of nurses are the ones who are engaging in the gossip, and trust me, they have no right to be gossiping about anybody!! I can't stand the "smile to your face, stab you in the back" mentality---I honestly can't be bothered with that crap. I choose to live my life happily and positively, lending a hand or a shoulder or an ear to whoever might need it at the time. I can "keep a secret", and when someone talks to me they can be assured that anything they have said to me stays within my two ears. Other nurses have actually gotten mad at me because I am so private----at one hospital I worked at where I was a supervisor, rumor actually went around that I was a lesbian because nobody knew about my personal life, if I was married or single, who I was dating, if I had kids, etc. And, let me tell you----nurses HATE that kind of stuff!!! Do you know why? Because then they have nothing to talk about!! So, in turn, they make stuff up...........pretty sad, isn't it?

    As I said in my previous post----drug abuse/addiction, more often than not, is only a symptom of something that runs much deeper than just wanting to get high, especially when it comes to nurses. One thing that I find odd is that in BON assistance programs, the thing that is focused on is the drug use itself----very little attention is paid to the underlying reasons for the drug use. Threatening a nurse to stay clean or intimidating them does not do any good----you can "stop" using the drugs because you are afraid of the consequences, but the underlying problems are still there, much like the term "dry drunk". As far as I am concerned, EVERYBODY could benefit from living their lives according to the 12 Steps---but, see, this would be very difficult for the "loud and proud" to do, because then they'd have to lay their skeletons on the table and they are terrified to do that. Do you know why? Because then they would be subject to the same judging and finger pointing that they themselves have done for so long. You have to dig down deep inside yourself and pull everything out, and then share it with others----only then can you get the help and support that you need and that can pull you out of whatever hole you've benn sitting in for so long. By the time a nurse starts using drugs or alcohol, usually the underlying problem has been going on for so long this is the only way they know how to cope with it. Nurses are TERRIFIED to ask for help EXACTLY because of punitive actions by the BON, so it goes on and on until it is out of control and somebody else notices. A lot of times, BON makes the "rules" so rigid and difficult to live by, by both the nurse and any employer they may have, it adds that much more stress to the original problem. I am not saying that they should just let the nurses go on using substances and putting people's lives in danger, but they have to be a little more flexible than some of them are. I knew a nurse in Florida who had a substance abuse problem, and the Florida IPN made life nearly impossible for this woman. She lived 45 minutes from one of the best addiction centers in the country---Hanley Hazeldon, which is considering the "grand-daddy" of recovery centers---and they mandated her to go to someplace in Atlanta, which would have cost her upwards of $100,000 for 3 months, which her insurance did not cover. She would have had to take a 2nd mortgage on her house to pay for it(and not having a job, it would have been rather difficult for her to pay it back---and then she would have lost her house altogether). Her insurance would have covered Hanley Hazeldon, though-----and they wouldn't let her go there!!! Do you know what she did? She surrendered her license and went voluntarily to Hanley Hazeldon, because her life meant that much to her, and she wanted to get help. I have since moved from Florida and I often wonder what happened to her----she was a SUPERLATIVE nurse with a graduate degree, very experienced, highly skilled and compassionate, she was just going through a really bad time with depression and decided to take the matter into her own hands rather than ask for help because she was afraid of the backlash. And, actually, now that I an thinking about it---she did go to a psychiatrist seeking help, and was honest to him about how she was self-medicating, and the psychiatrist turned her in to the BON----WITHOUT TELLING HER THAT HE WAS DOING THAT!!! When she got the call from BON, she almost fell off her chair----and she asked them who turned her in and they wouldn't tell her. When she went back to this shrink, she said something about the BON now being involved and he said something like "Oh, yeah---I was the one who turned you in." Now---talk about violating a person's trust!!! And, now she is supposed to open up to this shrink and lay her **** out for him to "treat" her? He misdiagnosed her---put her on Prozac and something else which made her ABSOLUTELY crazy (she tried to kill herself on those meds) and when she kept going back to him, she would tell this guy she didn't feel right, but he told her to keep taking it because it took a while to work. Finally, when she tried to kill herself and was Baker acted in the ED, she was admitted to a psych unit and the shrink she was seeing discontinued all the meds he had put her on...........great doctor, huh? And this is the type of stuff that I am sure goes on every day, which is so unfortunate. If you're going to turn someone in to the BON, be up front about it---especially if you are a treating physician!!!----and be honest to this person who is obviously having a hard enough time as it is.

    I don't know----I know this post is long enough----I guess I have "softened" over the years, maybe, but just because we are nurses does not mean we are infallible and don't suffer from the same things everybody else in society does too. If people could have a little more understanding, a little less intolerance and a whole lot more compassion maybe we as a people and us as nurses could make asking for help not as "embarrassing" as it is.
  13. by   NurseDiane
    Oh, Anne----by the way---I forgot to congratulate you on your 10 year anniversary. That is quite a wonderful feat, and I think it is awesome that you are able to show the strength and committment that you have to living life without "assistance".

    Good for you!!!