There is no denying the fact that Registered Nurses (aka “RNs“) are true American heroes. They help save lives on a daily basis and are always willing to roll up their sleeves when medical emergencies arise. But they are also human and can fall prey to an addiction just as easily as anyone else. In fact, recent studies have shown a rise in dependencies among women in this field.
First the facts. According to new data from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, up to 10 percent of all RN’s may be dependent on drugs or alcohol (per the National Council of State Boards of Nursing). Now this raises alarms on several levels. Not only is it tragic to think that people in this field are struggling with addiction, there is also the fact that they have regular access to medications. On the one hand, this can easily escalate a dangerous habit. And on the other, it could create a scenario where someone who’s intoxicated may be called to help with a medical emergency.
The National Council called out those concerns specifically in their report. “The behavior that results from this disease has far-reaching and negative effects, not only on the nurses themselves, but also upon the patients who depend on the nurse for safe, competent care,” NCSBN’s researchers wrote. “Many nurses with substance use disorder are unidentified, unreported, untreated and may continue to practice where their impairment may endanger the lives of their patients.”
Now truth be told, 91 percent of all RNs are female. So that, in itself, touches upon addiction among women and correlates with stats we’ve previously blogged about. Research has shown this gender to be more susceptible to certain dependencies. And the fact that nurses are called upon to work overnight shifts and grueling schedules could lead to unintentional issues with stimulants.
And let’s not forget the stressors that many of these women have to take home. The Atlanta Journal pointed out that female E.R. nurses were nearly four times as likely to abuse cocaine and alcohol than their pediatric counterparts. For those working in the emergency room, traumatic incidents occur nightly and can severely traumatize a RN. The need to “escape” with some sort of substance is not that uncommon of a reaction.
So the truth is; no matter how “trained” you are to handle difficult situations, addiction can always rear its ugly head. If this situation sounds familiar to you or someone close to you, please reach out and let us help.