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Health care professionals and addiction: You are not alone

Posted on June 27, 2018

If you are like many nurses, you love your job. In fact, you may identify as a nurse more than many of your other callings, such as being a spouse, a parent or a friend. It is your compassion and concern for others that drew you to the profession. While the reality of the job may not be exactly what you imagined as a student in nursing school, the privilege of helping others through a moment of crisis is what carries you through the day.

However, you are facing your own crisis now. Like approximately 20 percent of your nursing colleagues, you are struggling with an addiction. Not only does this problem place your health and career in jeopardy, but it may also place your patients at risk. If you hesitate to seek help because you fear it could cost you your job, there are options available that will provide you with a chance to seek recovery, perhaps without giving up your nursing license.

What are the factors?

On lists ranking professions with the highest rates of addiction, health care professionals consistently rank high. It is understandable when you consider the stress inherent in the job. Lives depend on you, and that creates a crushing sense of responsibility. However, other factors help create a perfect storm for you and other nurses who are vulnerable to addiction. For example:

  • Long, unpredictable shifts that require you to remain awake and alert
  • Shortage of staff, adding more obligations to your day
  • The emotional toll of high-risk situations and the need to make frequent life-and-death decisions
  • Easy access to powerful drugs like Oxycodone and Fentanyl
  • Knowledge of the euphoric effects certain drugs have on your patients

You may also have financial difficulties or the added stress of trying to maintain the unachievable balance between home and work. A combination of any of these factors can set you up for a fall into addiction. However, as a nurse in Arizona, you have the opportunity to seek treatment through the Chemically Addicted Nurses Diversion Option, whether as the result of a criminal charge related to your drug use, a formal complaint filed against you to the Board, or your own self-reporting.

The requirements for this and other diversion programs are not easy, but they may allow you to keep your license and perhaps continue working as you recover. While medical professionals have a high rate of addiction, they also have one of the highest rates of success after seeking qualified assistance with their medical and legal issues related to substance abuse.