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Addiction is a familiar burden for many nurses

You probably worked hard to build your career as a nurse. In addition to studying and increasing your knowledge, you established yourself as a skilled professional, someone who coworkers appreciate and patients prefer. You likely spend long hours on your feet and work shifts that keep you away from your family throughout the workweek.

While you may be proud of the work you do, the stamina you maintain and the reputation you have established for yourself, you may not be proud of the crutch you use to keep yourself on top of your game. If you, like more than 15% of nurses, are the victim of a drug or alcohol dependency, you have a lot on the line, including your health, your relationships and your career.

Why are nurses vulnerable to substance abuse?

It is not hard to imagine how stressful your job as a nurse can be. Depending on your specialty, you may be dealing with life and death situations on a daily basis. You may care for patients with traumatic injuries as well as face the risk of injury and violence on the job yourself. Some of the common reasons why those in your profession are more susceptible to drug or alcohol addiction include the following:

  • You work long shifts that rotate, preventing your body and mind from reaching a state of rest.
  • Your work is emotionally exhausting and mentally taxing.
  • You may have tremendous stress in caring for critically ill or injured patients, and deal with guilt and anxiety when patients die.
  • You may suffer from insomnia because of your odd schedule and high-stress environment.
  • Your profession allows you access to powerfully addictive substances.
  • You may have addiction in your family history.

Any of these factors may combine to make you vulnerable to addiction that can place you and your patients at risk. Substance abuse can make you behave inappropriately, cause you to miss work or lead you to make terrible mistakes. Because of these potential dangers, the California Board of Registered Nursing may take severe action against a nurse whose addictions comes to their attention, either because someone reports you or you are involved in a medical mistake.

You have the option of self-reporting and submitting to a treatment program to minimize the damage to your license and your career, but before you take this step, you would be wise to seek the advice of an attorney who deals with professional licensing issues. Such an attorney can also prove invaluable if you should face disciplinary action due to substance abuse or any other nursing matter.

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