Like many other nurses here in Pennsylvania, you probably give more of yourself to your job than you realize. The demands of your chosen profession can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Even so, you ordinarily find the rewards of the job worth the sacrifices you make.
However, you may have needed something to help you cope. Perhaps you have one too many drinks with dinner or take something to help you sleep or to keep you awake. At some point, you either realized you have a substance abuse problem or something happened to reveal it. In any case, you may now find yourself facing disciplinary proceedings and wondering how you got where you are.
Common reasons nurses have substance abuse issues
When it comes to substance addictions and abuses by nurses, the following commonalities exist:
- Many nurses experience mental and physical stress due to the demands of the job. Most of the time, you carry out your duties without thanks or appreciation. You could experience despair, guilt or anxiety. In order to cope, you may turn to drugs or alcohol. What may start as an occasional indulgence could easily turn into a problem. Your situation may even go beyond mere stress and turn into burnout syndrome or post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Fatigue is common among nurses due to long shifts and the physical and mental drain that comes with working as a nurse. You may get so tired that you have trouble falling asleep or trouble staying awake or both. In any case, you may begin self-medicating to deal with the problem. You may realize too late that you have a problem.
- Working in a hospital provides you with easy access to medications to which you could become addicted. It may start with a pill to help you get to sleep one night or one to help you stay awake during a shift. Maybe you injured your back lifting a patient and needed a muscle relaxer or two. Before you know it, you are addicted.
Your co-workers may notice changes in you indicative of a substance abuse issue or an addiction, but until something of significance occurs, they may not say anything -- even to you.
You need help
Whether you recognize it on your own or something forces you to face the problem, you need help. The situation reached a point where you could lose your license. You may face disciplinary action by the State Board of Nursing. The problem is that simply suspending or revoking your license is not what you need. You may need the services provided by the Professional Health Monitoring Program to beat your addiction and return to the profession you love.
In order to increase your chances of getting the help you need and keeping your license, you may benefit greatly from seeking out the advice and assistance of an attorney with experience in defending other health care professionals in your position.