The nursing field can be very demanding. As part of the job requirements for nurses, they spend most of the time with the patients, coordinate with the doctor on call and follow through with the instructions given by the physician. This stressful, chaotic and demanding job is a vital part of our healthcare system, however some nurses are succumbing to addiction and threatening the lives of the patients they are charged with caring for.
In a hospital setting, there are many opportunities for nurses to come into contact with controlled substances. Prescription painkillers like Oxycontin or Percocet are often prescribed after surgeries, accidents or for many other maladies. Very rarely does the doctor actually administer any sort of medicine; this is the job of the nurse. For those who are inclined to abuse drugs, the nursing field is not ideal.
A recent investigation in the state of Virginia showed that a number of nurses are abusing drugs. The origin of the drug abuse can be traced back to their profession, stealing drugs from patients or from the pharmacy, writing fake prescriptions for themselves or knowing what to say to get a doctor to prescribe opiate painkillers. “I never took a pill that a person needed, but there were never any extras,” explained one nurse that developed an addiction to opiates while employed.
Perhaps even more frightening than the amount of nurses that are addicted to painkillers is the amount of nurses that are allowed to continue working, surrounding themselves with dangerous medications and sick patients. The investigation noted that in the state of Virginia there was no requirement for background checks before a nurse was given a license to practice. Additionally, drug screens prior to employment and during employment are not a requirement in the state of Virginia. For those nurses who admitted to a drug abuse problem or who were caught abusing drugs, a staggering 66 percent of them did not successfully complete the rehab program mandated by the nursing board.
Perhaps a more unified and regulated approach can be used for nurses in recovery to be able to remain stable and still work in their chosen field, if feasible. There are professional programs for doctors that follow strict guidelines and usually include 18 months of monitoring after successful completion of treatment.