Health Care Workers Health care/social assistance Drugs

Groups encourage non-disciplinary approach for nurses battling addiction

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Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands – A new policy paper from the Emergency Nurses Association and the International Nurses Society on Addictions emphasizes “alternative-to-discipline” methods for nurses and nursing students who may be struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.

Standard disciplinary procedures for nurses dealing with substance abuse include criminal charges, job termination and the loss of licenses. Nursing students can face expulsion from school without “appropriate treatment or follow-up,” states a press release from Wolters Kluwer, publisher of the Journal of Addictions Nursing.

An ATD method allows nurses to seek appropriate therapy while away from work. They then could return to their jobs with potential limitations on hours/assignments, prearranged monitoring for a suggested three to five years, and continuing treatment.

“When viewed and treated as a chronic medical illness, treatment outcomes for substance use disorders are comparable with those of other diseases and can result in lasting benefits,” the paper’s co-authors – Dr. Stephen Strobbe, president of the International Nurses Society on Addictions and clinical associate professor at the University of Michigan, and Melanie Crowley, of the Emergency Nurses Association – said in the abstract. “Professional monitoring programs that employ an alternative-to-discipline approach have been shown to be effective in the treatment of health professionals with substance use disorders and are considered a standard for recovery, with high rates of completion and return to practice.”

The position paper also calls on health care organizations to encourage “safe, supportive and drug-free” workplaces via education and policies. It adds that nurses and students should be made aware of the dangers of substance abuse and their responsibility to report concerns.

The paper was published in the April/June issue of the Journal of Addictions Nursing.

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