Nursing is a demanding field and there are many factors that put Nurses at risk for developing problems with substance abuse and addiction.
Research estimates that 10% of Nurses will misuse drugs or alcohol at some time during their career.
Many Nurses in the U.S. have had their licenses suspended or revoked because they either caused harm to a patient, diverted or misappropriated drugs, or couldn’t safely practice because of their addiction.
In the past, Nurses who had addiction problems were dismissed or charged. Now addiction is being recognized as a disease. Thankfully, there has been a shift from disciplining Nurses to helping Nurses get better.
According to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, 43 states have created substance use disorder monitoring programs for Nurses called "alternative-to-discipline" (ATD) programs. Nurses with substance use disorders are three times more likely to admit their problem in states with ATD programs than in states with traditional discipline programs. ATD programs provide Nurses with a structured process for a better outcome: After completing addiction treatment, they go through monitored reintegration into the workforce.
Joan Widmer, Nurse Executive Director of the New Hampshire Nurses Association, said, "Encouraging Nurses to self-report in the early stages of addiction is critical. You want them to recognize their own problem and feel comfortable that they can come forward and address the problem without loss of licensing and a way of making a living."
An article from Kaiser Health News said, instead of revoking the license of an individual who is found to be impaired on the job, these peer-run programs try to get participants back to work with mandated treatment plans that include intensive therapy, monitoring their behavior in and out of the workplace and, of course, drug testing.
Research shows, ATD programs have been successful in treating Nurses with substance use disorders. Also the long-term recovery rate for Nurse licensees undergoing treatment in these programs is high.
“I don’t think you’re ever going to see substance use disorder disappear in the Nursing population; it’s going to be there,” Widmer said. “But if you can at least address it and find a way to do it in a non-stigmatic way, you’re going to keep patients safer, because Nurses are going to self-report."