Challenges Facing Impaired Nurses

Treatment for nurses with substance use disorders should be on par with the concentrated level of care and ongoing support that impaired physicians receive.

While there are similarities in the presenting issues that affect all healthcare professionals with substance use problems, nurses often experience a shorter duration of treatment and tend to return to a relatively chaotic working environment where they can be particularly susceptible to relapse. There is a significant gap in nurses’ rate of recovery vis-à-vis that of doctors.

One approach is for nurses to experience treatment with other nurses in nurse-exclusive group offers numerous benefits. Placing healthcare professionals in non-specialized programs often generates undesired dynamics.

In general, healthcare professionals can be susceptible to substance misuse and other problems because they tend to take care of their patients better than they take care of themselves. But the nature of the workplace differs between nurses and, for example, physicians. Whereas doctors tend to work more in office-based environments where they may have more control over their schedule, nurses tend to operate in a less orderly hospital environment characterized by irregular work shifts and more susceptibility to workplace injury.

Also, nurses’ stays in primary addiction treatment programs may be shorter than those of doctors, meaning that they will need more aftercare support. And because of the nature of their work, they are even more exposed than doctors are to the medications that could threaten a lasting recovery.