Addiction is a disease which affects many people in our society. There are many different addictions, for example, alcohol, nicotine, narcotics or gambling. Some addictions impact the lives and jobs of citizens more than others, and there are occupations where some addictions are not acceptable; nursing is one of them. Guided by the Code of Ethics, nurses are trusted to provide the best possible care. Responsibility, compassion, patience and honesty are only a few of the characteristics describing the nursing profession. Unfortunately, stress, difficulty coping and many other factors may result in an addiction. Nurses are human too and are not immune to an addiction. Approximately 14% to 20% of nurses throughout the United States suffer from an addiction (Patrick, 2010). Substance abuse by nurses carries many ethical and legal issues for society, healthcare organizations and colleagues. Nurses with substance dependency are not fit for work and they should seek treatment and rehabilitation like every other member of our society. There are programs and peer support groups that help nurses with rehabilitation and returning to work. However, the stigma attached to having an addiction and distrust can make it difficult for coworkers to forgive and allow the nurse to reenter the profession, because it “threatens professional standards, conduct and morals” (Cook, 2013, p.21). In times of nursing shortages, it is imperative to allow these nurses to return to the nursing profession and earn back the trust of coworkers and society.
Substance abuse is a disease that affects nurses to the same extent as the general population. “Addiction is a c...
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...ith addiction is a fundamental condition of mutual respect, a critical measure of reducing stigma, and necessary condition for nurses to recognize and seek treatment” (Kunyk & Austin, 2011, p.384). Co-workers of the addicted nurse may be more judgmental and distant because of the perceived disgrace to the profession. However, recovering nurses should not be treated differently than the recovering general population. “Healthcare professionals are reportedly harsher toward colleagues who abuse drugs than toward those in the general population who do so” (Cook, 2013, p.22). This may be a result of a perceived betrayal to the profession, and shared ethical standards. Colleagues of addicted nurses may face many moral and ethical dilemmas. The Code of Ethics should guide nurses not only to report substance use, but also to treat co-workers returning to work with respect.
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