Nurses are consistently voted the most trusted profession in America, and with good reason–you’re on the front lines of healthcare, caring for those who need it most with skill and compassion. But the media doesn’t always portray nurses as trustworthy; shows like Nurse Jackie and Scrubbing In often portray nurses as drug-addicted partiers, not the skilled professionals you really are.
We recently read the sobering article “5 Terrifying Things I Learned as a Drug-Addicted Nurse” on Cracked.com, and knew you would have a lot to say about it and its ramifications for the public’s perception of nurses.
Here are some excerpts from the article:
I was a registered nurse for two years, and during that time, I was a hopeless drug addict who not only stole drugs from the hospital, but frequently used them during my shifts. And I’m not alone: RNs abuse drugs at roughly twice the rate of everybody else in the country — as many as 1 in 5 may be addicts, according to studies.
How is this possible? Well …
#5. There’s Nothing to Stop You from Stealing Drugs and Needles
It might seem crazy that nurses would have a high rate of addiction, considering that we’re more knowledgeable about the horrible effects of drugs than the average person. But that’s the problem: We’re too close to drugs. We have access to all the clean paraphernalia that you could ever need, and we’re not worried about overdosing on some dirty batch of brown sugar heroin. These aren’t street drugs — they’re FDA-approved pharmaceuticals.
That’s how I rationalized my addiction for a long time: “I’m not an addict because I know everything there is to know about this drug, and I still take showers and go to work.” Of course, just because professional drug addiction doesn’t look the same as under-the-bridge drug addiction, it will still end up taking a big shit on your life … or someone else’s.
My drug of choice was Dilaudid, an opioid analgesic typically given to patients who are allergic to morphine (it also happens to be 7 to 10 times stronger than morphine). At the hospital, we stored it in 2-milligram vials, but since physicians almost never ordered that strong a dose, it was really easy for me to administer a portion of the vial and pocket the rest. How is that possible, when every day kids are yanked off the street for having a single rock of crack cocaine in their pocket?
Well, when you dispose of leftover narcotics, you’re supposed to find another RN to “witness the waste,” meaning you squirt it into a hazardous material bin while they watch. But if you’ve ever been to a hospital, you probably have some idea of how much people care about watching their co-worker throw something away: Nurses have roughly 50 million places to be at any given second, and about half those things involve saving someone’s life, so any unexpected, tedious task is going to be rushed through as quickly as possible. Most of the time, someone would quickly punch their code into the machine indicating that they’d witnessed the waste without actually watching me do anything, then rush off to their next task. Not because they were irresponsible (although that’s difficult to dispute) — they just assumed I was trustworthy.
Read the rest of the article here, and then tell us: Do you see drug abuse happening in your workplace? What can hospitals and nurses do to combat this serious problem? Share your thoughts in the comments below.