One of the first things you may want to ask yourself when you come down with a nurse abuse or substance abuse problem is, “Does this patient have a long-term health condition?” If the answer to this question is “yes,” then you have a definite reason to suspect that the nurse in question is engaged in activities that are detrimental to his or her health. You also may want to ask whether or not this person is a candidate for dual diagnosis treatment? Of course, there may be instances when a nurse does not display signs of a substance abuse problem, but there are enough red flags in their personality that should give you cause for concern. For instance, if the patient is suffering from depression and is also withdrawing from friends and family, it would be considered extremely uncommon for a nurse to be exhibiting these symptoms. Still, if the withdrawal symptoms persist despite treatment, it is a good sign that the patient may be suffering from another illness.
Another thing that you need to ask yourself when you suspect a nurse’s abuse is, “Is this abuse widespread in my hospital’s community?” This is important because you want to make sure that the abuse is not isolated to a specific hospital or team within your system. Remember, there are several people who work in a nursing home or other medical facility. For instance, it would not be abnormal for abuse to occur in a nursing home with ten units away from another nursing home unit. Unfortunately, most organizations tend to focus their resources on the local area where abuse occurs, without paying much attention to the national scope.
There are many reasons why a nurse may exhibit the above symptoms. In the case of substance abuse, patients may try to conceal their addiction in order to avoid treatment. Others may use substances as a way to self medicate for discomfort or pain. Still others may simply seek ways to numb their feelings. Regardless of the reason, it is essential that you become aware of the signs so that you can ensure your health and safety of your patients.
When a nurse suspects that a patient may be abusing a substance, they should make it clear to the patient that they are aware of their situation. If you suspect a nurse is abusing drugs, inform the nurse’s supervisor or physician. The abuse must be reported in order to protect the nurse, the patient, and the facility from further legal or liability issues. In addition to making sure the doctor is aware of the situation, the nurse should advise the facility of the specifics as soon as possible.
In some instances, abuse reporting comes into play when a nurse is facing legal action from a patient or other individuals. When a nurse suspects abuse is occurring, they should consult with their attorney about whether or not they have a case. It is imperative that a nurse is aware of all of the requirements that go along with reporting abuse to the proper authorities. In some situations, abuse reporting requires the authorization of a physician, which is not always granted.
Nursing is a profession that requires a great deal of dedication and caring. Whether you work in a doctor’s office, a hospital, or any other medical facility, the job puts a tremendous amount of stress on the individuals who perform their duties. If you have concerns that a nurse is abusing a substance, it is important that you report this to the appropriate authorities. Regardless of the circumstances that lead you to believe a nurse is abusing a patient, it is important that you act quickly and responsibly to make sure the abuse does not continue.