Substance Use Disorder in Nursing
No one is immune from developing Substance Use Disorder. It can affect anyone regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, economic circumstance or occupation. Nurses who abuse substances pose a unique challenge to the nursing profession. 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. Early recognition, reporting and intervention are fundamental for keeping patients safe from harm and helping colleagues recover.
Prior to the 1980s, nurses were often fired by employers and/or disciplined by the board of nursing (BON) when evidence of substance use became apparent. Non-disciplinary programs, offering an alternative to traditional discipline, are now used by a growing number of state BON. These programs provide the nurse with rapid involvement in a rehabilitation or treatment program and remove the nurse from providing care until safety to practice can be established and confirmed.
When treatment for nurses is individually tailored to meet their needs and an appropriate supportive monitoring system is in place, nurses can recover and return to practice safely. An extensive body of scientific evidence demonstrates that approaching substance use disorders as treatable illness is extremely effective for the individual using substances, as well as for society.
Substance Use Disorder Resources
NCSBN Learning Extension Substance Use Disorder Courses
These self-paced continuing education courses from Learning Extension are designed for nurses and nurse managers. Register at learningext.com.
4.0 contact hours | Free!
This self-paced course will help nurses acquire the knowledge to recognize and report a colleague with SUD, while compassionately getting them the help they need and protecting the public.
3.0 contact hours | Free!
This self-paced course for nurse managers will take knowledge to the next level to proactively prevent, detect and intervene when a nurse is suspected of suffering from SUD.
Related Journal of Nursing Regulation Articles
Substance Use Disorders and Accessing Alternative-to-Discipline Programs
Substance Abuse: Risks Factors and Protective Factors
Regulatory Management of Substance Use in High-Risk Nurse Populations
Reentry and Recidivism for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists
Model Guidelines for Alternative Programs and Discipline Monitoring Programs
Understanding the Disease of Addiction
Nurses with Chemical Dependency: Promoting Successful Treatment and Reentry
Addressing Chemically Dependent Colleagues
Investigating and Making a Case for Drug Diversion
Substance Use Disorder in Nursing: Resource Manual and Guidelines
The Substance Use Disorder in Nursing Resource Manual and Guidelines provides practical and evidence-based guidelines for evaluating, treating, and managing nurses with a substance use disorder.
- Information on prevention, detection and intervention
- Essential theoretical and practical guidelines
- Current research and knowledge synthesized from the field
- Material to enhance alternative to discipline programs (ATD)
- Guidelines for regulatory bodies in the evaluation of ATD programs
- Examples of model contracts, forms and reports
The NCSBN Checklist and Program Audit for Alternative to Discipline or Monitoring Programs Tool
This checklist and program audit of Alternative to Discipline Program or Monitoring Program (ATD program) analyzes fourteen criteria to determine whether the ATD program is in alignment with NCSBN Guidelines for Alternative Programs and Discipline Monitoring Programs within Substance Use Disorder in Nursing. The checklist and audit will identify and inform, and then assist in the management and remediation of any deficiencies.
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