Nurses Who Are Drug Addicts - page 3

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   traumaRUs
    I think you owe it to the nurse, her patients and co-workers to report it.
  2. by   Cattitude
    Quote from asoldierswife05
    yes, i just graduated in december and no i have not yet had personal experience with an impaired nurse.

    i was given a very good education in school about the subject. we examined nursing trends, the psychological components of addicition, why nurses are susceptable secondary to high stress and immediate availability, legal ramifications and rehab programs, signs to recognize a possibly impaired nurse, and the professional obligation to report it. it was covered in theory lecture, in psychology, and in our leadership classes.

    i am no expert but the professional obligations were made very clear to me in my education. it must be reported. there are some excellent rehab programs for nurses who suffer from addiction available today. it is not only our duty to protect our patients and help them with their disease process, but to also protect our co-workers and extend them help in such extreme circumstances. turning your head and hoping they work it out on their own only enables the addiction, put's patient's in harm's way, and does nothing to help your co-worker who is suffering from self-destructive behavoir.
    that's great to hear. we were taught nothing about it in my adn or bsn program. i'm glad that's changing. i didn't know how big the issue was until i got into recovery. i probably worked with several addicts in my career and didn't know it.

    there's a ton of help now for nurses that need it, it wasn't always like that. year ago, they just fired nurses. now the nurse is given a chance for recovery/sobriety (usually, some places are still punitive). but always report to your supervisor if you are 110% sure that said nurse is using substances. please be sure first.

    there are many prescribed meds that cause weird side effects or personal situations that can cause mood changes. just be i have said in a previous post, if you do report it and the nurse gets help, the majority of the time, they will be grateful you did report them...


  3. by   ladytraviler
    There are others out there who are going through the same thing. I am a recovering alcholic and addict. I will always be recovering. I started when was a medic, got caught, did inpt therapy, attend AA & NA meetings. Was clean for 5 years before nursing. Yes the temptation is there, but when I think about it I aknowledge that this time around I would loose my life as well as everything that makes life worth living. I go to events where people around me drink and I think just one wont hurt, Then I remember what it was like when I was actively drinking. I let my doctors know that I am an addict so that they will not prescribe large amounts of narcotics if I need them. I am so careful to comply with the drug testing my company requires. I have many friends who ask me how do you do it? I can only say that I have someone who takes the temptation and shows me the reality of addiction.

    I am sorry this is so long. I think the issue of addiction needs to come out of the closet and be realize as a two part problem. It is not just the active addiction that causes problem, but the self loathing and denial that contribute to it. How can recovery start when there are many nurses who don't understand the process of addiction. If you take a close look at your life, you will see that all of us have an addiction. It may be to coffee, coke, cigaretts, or chocalate. The drug addiction cause problems for not just the nurse but for co-workers who unknowingly help them, the patients who think that they did get the med but no relief, and the family of the addicted. It is not just a lack of will power, nor the need to feel the high. I am very close to this subject so I will shut up before I really get on my soap box.

    The best piece of advice I got from my sponser was "What is reality for you? Can it come from a bottle or a pill? Or is it in the feelings that life evokes that you are trying to avoid? Answer those when you feel you must have a drink/drug. Then if the answer is yes you still need, call me." And I did call alot in that first year. I still call 10 years later. Sad to say she died of a drug overdose this year. But I will make it. I have to for me.
  4. by   Nursing On The Run

    Add me to the list of recovering alcoholics/addicts who successfully works as a nurse in the hospital. I was sober a long time before becoming a nurse, btw. For my recovering friends out there: When you choose a password for withdrawing drugs, why not use your sobriety date? Or the famous page number from Doctor/Alcoholic/Addict aka Acceptance Was The Answer? I feel like that's a good reminder for me, everytime I'm grabbing a bunch of narcs :smilecoffeecup:

    Anyway, I once worked alongside a nurse who later turned out to be stealing drugs from the hospital. (Sad to say, I was not quick to pick up on this at all). Two things come to my mind when I remember working with her, in terms of signs and symptoms. One is, she was prone to flying into temper tantrums. She happened to be very humorous, which may be why this was tolerated. But she was noticeably volatile.

    The other thing I distinctly remember is once, when I was entering my password into the pyxis/omnicell, she seemed to be looking at the keyboard trying to see what my password was. Most people make a point of looking elsewhere.

    Anyway, I agree with the advice to tell your nursing supervisor, and follow up to make sure more is happening than just offering the nurse the chance to resign. My kids want on the 'puter....

    Hugs, and I love knowing there are people out there who put sobriety first, with their families, patients, and colleagues all benefiting....
  5. by   Cattitude
    Quote from Nursing On The Run

    Hugs, and I love knowing there are people out there who put sobriety first, with their families, patients, and colleagues all benefiting....
    Back at ya! Thanks for the idea of using the sobriety date for passwords. I like that even though I don't work in a hospital right now, I will keep that tip in mind.

    I too love knowing and living sobriety first. For putting that first then means I can be a better wife, daughter, friend, and nurse to my pt's. There's nothing better than waking up each morning clean. :smilecoffeecup: Ok. ok except for the caffeine...
  6. by   bluesquare
    im not a nurse, nor am i a student...however, my mother was. she got her degree as an RN while raising 3 children, graduating with a 3.9! i swear, she was born to be an RN. she had all the qualities an ideal nurse should possess, and she has also been featured in a reknown medical journal, although i cant remember the name of it. point is, she was great at what she did, and as young as i was and as infrequent as i saw her because of all the hours she was working, i still could sense her compassion. not only did she love the job, but the job loved her. the relationship she had with nursing was like an exciting, passionate love affair that gradually turned into a self destructive relationship of push and pull.

    the hours wore her down, and being a sufferer of depression and adult add with a history of drug abuse, she began taking medication from the hospital she worked at. now i dont know specifics; i dont like to ask much because i know how ashamed of herself she is and i dont want to remind her. but the pattern went like this - shed steal meds, get caught, and because she was so good at her job and such a valued asset of the hospital, theyd send her to rehab without pressing charges. eventually she ended up getting transferred or resigned (once again, who knows) and went from hospital to hospital to hospital, the last of which being a small detox center downtown. whatever happened, one of the hospitals she worked at decided to press charges after she got out of rehab and had already moved on. from what i remember, they waited out their 2 year grace period and at the last minute decided to press charges.

    my mother was 40 when she was sentenced to jail. she was locked up for about a year - i was just 13 years old. when she came back, her condition was worse, her addictions more severe. i didnt know who she was anymore, and what i thought was a reaction from some traumatic experience while serving time turned out to be the result of a severe addiction to a different narcotic. anyways, she has since cleaned up but her destructive behavior from her addiction was a catalyst to the end of a 20 some year marriage between my parents.

    she now lives by herself in a tiny apartment - her oldest son is 26 and in prison, her other son, whos 21 and lives at home with my dad, has yet to successfully complete a semester at community college with an IQ of 160, and finally her youngest child of 19 years, myself, is her only source of encouragement and companionship and the only person she trusts, but goes to college two hours away. to top off her loneliness, her struggle with drugs has resulted in the revocation of her nursing license - a piece of paper that defined what was both the greatest love of her life and the most destructive.

    the lost license limited her ability to practice ever again, but it's the felony and drug charges that have proven to be the most inhibiting as far as jobs are concerned. she is prohibited from working in schools, any branch of gvt, hospitals, etc, because apparently DRUG FELONY isn't enough to scare employers off. shes been working as a medical transcriptionist in her home, but the pay amounts to little after factoring out bills, rent, food, and lawyer and court fees with the divorce, my half brothers indictment, and with an old lawsuit both my parents fought against the builders of our home. not to mention trying to give anything she can to help out her kids. she has fallen into a serious depression - divorced, not much family, ashamed of her mistakes, guilty and self-loathing for the damage shes done to all of us, and unable to practice nursing after working so hard to get that piece of paper.

    has anyone been in or know of anyone in this situation? she feels that her options are so limited because of her past; shes lost a couple jobs without warning due to their random backround checks. the government provides programs to help those who have been released from serious crimes, but there doesn't seem to be much that deals with my mom's situation, a situation which i tell her time and time again is so common. any suggestions?
  7. by   TraumaICURN
    In TN, we have a program called TNPAP...Tennessee Professional Assistance Program. If you suspect your colleague may be addicted, you can contact TNPAP anonymoulsy, requesting help from them. Then TNPAP will contact that nurse and request an evaluation. If they feel that treatment is needed, then the nurse can either consent or deny. If the nurse successfully completes the program (I think it's 3-5 yrs) then the BON won't hear anything about the addiction.
    I don't know if these same rules apply in all states or not though.
  8. by   Nursing On The Run
    i'm replying to bluesquare's post above....

    you sound like a very devoted daughter, and like someone who is determined to keep to the good path despite the self-destruction around you. keep it up!

    i feel for your mom. there is a lot going on-- money pressure, self-image and self-esteem issues, regret over the past, feelings of responsibility for her sons going astray. but, as a fellow addict/alcoholic, i can tell you that the only important issue is whether or not your mom picks up today. and for that, most of us need help. i would encourage her to go to aa and to na (aa has the rep of having better/longer sobriety). and i would really encourage you to go to al-anon (same deal-- better rep than nar-anon). go to at least 6 meetings before you decide if it's for you.

    believe it or not, yes, i have heard stories in aa of people, including in the medical professions, who have been in your mom's straits and regained their standing and in one case, a professional license. it takes a lot of time and change. if your mom goes to enough different meetings and actually talks to people and tries to do as they suggest, she will surely meet someone who has been where she has been and can show her the way out.

    sometimes i feel like i sound like i am over-simplifying. but i think that's the result of knowing that:
    sobriety is the most important thing in my life today. the most important decision i ever made was the decision to give up drinking. i am convinced my entire life depends on not picking up the first drink (or drug).

    (that's part of what i pray every morning....from the literature-- hazelden not aa approved--and very true. but counter-intuitive to someone still feeling the heat).

    so in short: go to al-anon (at least 6 meetings). encourage your mom to go to aa and to na. and that's all you can do-- but it's enough.

  9. by   Cattitude
    Quote from bluesquare
    has anyone been in or know of anyone in this situation? she feels that her options are so limited because of her past; shes lost a couple jobs without warning due to their random backround checks. the government provides programs to help those who have been released from serious crimes, but there doesn't seem to be much that deals with my mom's situation, a situation which i tell her time and time again is so common. any suggestions?
    hi, there are a couple of nurses in my support groups with felonies, one who just got her license back. she did have to work very hard and it took a while.
    [color=#483d8b]so yes it's possible to rise up from this situation. each state is different and then each employer looks at it differently as well.
    [color=#483d8b]again as the poster before me stated, the most important thing is she not pick up today. as long as that happens, she can then make it all happen.
    [color=#483d8b]mom sounds like she's on the right path and believe me, sometimes getting caught and even jail has saved lives, kind of a blessing in disguise. i know she feels like she's lost herself but she did not! being a nurse is only a part of who we are.
    [color=#483d8b]staying clean is top priority.
  10. by   jill48
    I know that many of you think I am some kind of monster because I am so strong-willed and assertive (as evidenced in other threads), but when I started this thread I really was just wanting to know what signs and symptoms you all had encountered. I have no ill feelings toward anyone with addiction problems. Far from it, actually. I really want to help this person; I'm not out to bust her. To all of you who are in recovery, thank you for being so brave as to tell your story. Your strength is unbelievable and I applaud you. Thank you all for your advice. :kiss
  11. by   caliotter3
    I had a DON who was stealing narcotics. I could best say that her symptoms were her frequent outbursts of temper and grandiosity. Since these are indicative of a strong personality as well as other bona fide mental illness, I could not have suspected that she was diverting. I found out because a nurse who was supplying her off the cart (no pyxis at this facility) made the statement to me. She admitted being the "supplier". Otherwise, her tantrums and erratic behavior were just that to me, tantrums and erratic behavior. I reported what happened to the authorities. Nothing was done. It was years later, that I was informed that nothing was done about my report. Instead, I was "investigated" as no one in their right mind accuses another person of doing drugs without a nefarious reason!! Of course, I learned my lesson the hard way. But as far as I was concerned, I had done what I had to do. Would I report such a situation again? I doubt it.
  12. by   bjcd
    what do you do if you think someone is using drugs or giving to many prn narcotics and you can't report due to the nm is thier friend and the one over her is her friend. then what can you do.
  13. by   Lacie
    Unless you know for fact then keep it to yourself. It's one thing highly suspecting your co-worker is under the influence at work and reporting compared to just "suspicion" based on giving too many prn meds. Many nurses have varying opinions related to pain control/management. What you may think is excessive but is within the documented order is no reason to automatically suspect someone is diverting. Many lives have been ruined unjustly based on suspicions.