Suffering in Silence: Spreading Awareness on Nurses Struggling with Substance Use Disorder

Suffering in Silence: Spreading Awareness on Nurses Struggling with Substance Use Disorder

Rates of substance use disorder have continued to grow in the United States and studies have shown that 10-15% of health care professionals abuse substances at some point in their lifetime. Many individuals working in the health care field are dealing with patients, so these numbers present serious safety issues for their patients if a professional is impaired. To get some first hand insight on this issue, I have asked two nurses in recovery, Kristin L., RN, and Cynthie K., RN,  to share their experience and knowledge on the subject to shed awareness on this issue.

Kristin has been sober for 13 years and began abusing prescription opioids during her career in nursing. She has been able to retain her license despite facing legal consequences.

Cynthie has been sober for 6 months and is still facing consequences from her drug and alcohol abuse.

How did your addiction affect your career?

Kristin was working with intubated patients where they administered Fentanyl and she began stealing any extra Fentanyl because, as she explained, after she took it once, she had to have it every time she went to work. After 9 months she was caught and arrested the first time, resulting in the loss of her medical license. Kristin felt like she dodged a bullet by ending up with misdemeanors, but she began working as a medical secretary where she immediately started calling in prescriptions for herself. When she was caught doing this, she spent 4 months in jail and is now carrying the weight as a convicted felon. Fortunately, she was able to retain her nursing license after a 5 year monitoring program.

When Cynthie made the decision to get sober, she was working as Director of Nursing. She explains that working while impaired affected her judgement and decision making. She wasn’t able to perform to the best of her ability and no longer had the enthusiasm about work that she once had. She frequently called out of work because drinking became more important. Since her judgement was off, she thinks it could have had an effect on patient outcome which was potentially dangerous for families who were in difficult situations. She notes that she lost her job due to a DUI, but was able to maintain her license through the help of a nurse who worked with a statewide program for professionals with substance use disorder.

What kind of programs and support were you offered?

Through the Professional Assistance Procedure (PAP) program in Wisconsin that Kristin participated in, she was given a restricted license so she could still work as a nurse. She had to do weekly random drug screens, attend counseling, 12 step meetings, and submit quarterly reports to the nursing board. If at any time she did not comply to these standards, her license may have been suspended again.

In New York, Cynthie was able to get help through the Statewide Peer Assistance for Nurses (SPAN) program. A nurse who worked with SPAN helped Cynthie go to detox and treatment, allowing her to get help before her license was revoked as a result of her DUI. In this program, individuals are subject to random drug screenings while being closely monitored by a supervisor so they may continue to practice while obtaining the help and support of professionals.

What would you add to these programs to make them more effective?

Kristin and Cynthie both feel strongly that anyone working with narcotics or controlled substances should be subject to random drug screens. Both women believe that if we tested more people in hospitals and clinics, the numbers of addicts silently suffering would be astonishing. Kristin estimates that many providers would lose about 10% of the workforce due to substance abuse problems. She suggests that a great addition to the programs offered to her would be a yearly training on how to report to the nursing board. With these ideas implemented, the hope is for health care professionals to feel safe reporting anyone suffering in silence.

What measures can be taken for prevention of substance abuse in the health care field?

Despite different stories and consequences, both Kristin and Cynthie agree that more conversation about substance abuse, in both the health care field and within society as a whole, need to take place. Both women explain it would be beneficial to invite a recovering health care professional, who has personally suffered through addiction, to share their story with others at yearly conferences or trainings. Kristin explained that having a person share their experience, as a health care professional suffering from addiction, can potentially help reduce the stigmas surrounding addiction. Kirstin also believes this could help not only the individual struggling, but their families as well. Bringing awareness to the disease of addiction can help reduce the stigmas of addiction and open the lines of communication for other nurses in similar situations, in hopes of allowing them to reach out and ask for help.

Nurse of the Week: Air Force Veteran Casey Botelho Stays True to Dream of Serving as a Nurse

Nurse of the Week: Air Force Veteran Casey Botelho Stays True to Dream of Serving as a Nurse

Our Nurse of the Week is Casey Botelho, an Air Force Veteran and first-generation college graduate who stayed true to her dream of becoming a nurse and then decided to give back by serving fellow veterans at the VA. Botelho currently works as a medical/surgical Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse at the Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center (PVAMC), but her path there was not an easy one.

As a young girl, Botelho focused on two goals: contributing to an endeavor greater than herself and finding a career in which she could help others. Botelho joined the Air Force Reserves as an 18-year-old fresh out of high school and after six weeks of basic training she returned to Rhode Island and enrolled in classes at Rhode Island College to earn her nursing degree.

Botelho tells RIC.edu, “My love and passion to help people was the reason why I wanted to pursue going to nursing school. RIC is known for having one of the top nursing programs around so it was an honor to be accepted in the program.”

Shortly after starting her nursing degree, military orders arrived for Botelho to report to Afghanistan. Botelho became part of a unit responsible for providing dining facilities and loading trucks for missions by special force operations like the Navy Seals and Army Rangers.

After 10 months serving in a war zone, Botelho returned to Rhode Island College in 2011. She thankfully had a strong support system to lean on while she adjusted to her return to civilian life. She leaned on that support system while transitioning back into college life at RIC, taking on challenging nursing courses that identified critical care issues among geriatric and pediatric populations.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2015, Botelho decided to apply for entry in the PVAMC’s Post-Baccalaureate Nurse Residency Program (PBNR). Now she leads the PBNR’s two-month ICU training and says she doesn’t anticipate working anywhere outside of a Veteran Administration medical facility.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2015, Botelho decided to apply for entry in the PVAMC’s Post-Baccalaureate Nurse Residency Program (PBNR). Now she leads the PBNR’s two-month ICU training and says she doesn’t anticipate working anywhere outside of a Veteran Administration medical facility.

To learn more about Casey Botelho, an Air Force Veteran and first-generation college graduate who stayed true to her dream of becoming a nurse and decided to back by serving fellow veterans at the VA, visit here.

University of Texas Health Science Center Raises $10 Million at Biennial Constellation Gala

University of Texas Health Science Center Raises $10 Million at Biennial Constellation Gala

At their third biennial Constellation Gala in November, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) raised an all-time high of $10.1 million. The donations raised at the gala will go toward supporting student scholarships, faculty endowments, research, and clinical care.

Diana Hawkins, chair of the UTHealth Development Board, tells tmc.edu, “Our gala theme, the constellation, represents the character of this great institution. Just as a constellation and the night skies are made of many bright and shining stars, so do the unique people who are UTHealth shine together as one of the nation’s premier universities. Tonight, we honor you—our UT family, friends and supporters. You’re our stars in our constellation that help the university’s top doctors, scientists and scholars revolutionize health care.”

The gala honored Jane and Robert Cizik who donated $25 million to the UTHealth School of Nursing in November 2017. The unprecedented gift has gone toward the university’s endeavor to address the shortage of nurses in healthcare by training the next generation of skilled and compassionate nurses. The Cizik’s are known in Houston for their service to the community and UTHealth was honored to recognize them at the Constellation Gala.

The event also recognized actor William Devane for his voice-over work with the award-winning “Many Faces of UTHealth” branding campaign, which highlights the university’s educators, researchers and clinicians. The campaign educated the Houston community on the scope of UTHealth and the work of its exceptional faculty members across the healthcare spectrum, including the nursing program.

To learn more about UTHealth’s biennial Constellation Gala which raised over $10 million in November to support the university’s healthcare students and faculty, visit here.

Argosy University Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program Granted Accreditation

Argosy University Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program Granted Accreditation

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program at Argosy University in Atlanta was recently granted accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), which will last through December 2023.

Dr. Charlita Shelton, campus president of Argosy University, Atlanta, tells PRNewswire.com, “CCNE accreditation reflects that the BSN program at Argosy University, Atlanta, together with its faculty, curriculum, and support systems meet the standards established by the leading professional organization.”

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education is an autonomous accrediting agency. It is officially recognized by the US Secretary of Education as a national accreditation agency that contributes to the improvement of the public’s health. The CCNE ensures quality and integrity in all bachelor’s, graduate, and residency programs in nursing nationwide.

The CCNE serves the public interest, assessing and identifying programs that engage in effective educational practices. It is a voluntary and self-regulatory process that supports and encourages continued self assessment by nursing programs as well as continued growth and improvement of collegiate professional education and nurse residency programs.

To learn more about Argosy University’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program being awarded accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, visit here.

New Citywide Nurse Residency Program Will Help Retention In New York Hospitals

New Citywide Nurse Residency Program Will Help Retention In New York Hospitals

A new citywide nurse residency program being implemented in New York hospitals is expected to help retention efforts and curb burnout among nurses. The program will support participating hospitals with a year-long residency that bridges the gap between education and practice for recent graduates.

The Citywide Nurse Residency program will be implemented in 24 participating hospitals and 500 newly-hired nurses will be provided with specialized training that promotes job retention in first year nurses. The program is being offered in partnership with the Greater New York Hospital Association, NYU Langone Health, and New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

The program will provide newly-hired, first-time nurses with on-the-job training, focusing on ethics, decision making, clinical leadership, and the incorporation of research-based evidence into practice. Nurses in the program will also receive support and mentoring to enhance job satisfaction, performance, and retention.

New York City’s public hospital system is the largest in the nation. Adopting a citywide nurse residency program will help hospitals save on the financial cost of losing employees and provide a proven way to help retain nursing staff.

Mayor Bill de Blasio tells healthcarefinancenews.com, “We’re exploring every possible avenue to create new pipelines of opportunity for New Yorkers who deserve good paying jobs as we continue to make strides toward being the fairest big city in America. This Citywide Nurse Residency program will help expand opportunities and retain skilled professionals at public hospitals that deliver quality health care to countless New Yorkers.”

To find out more about the new citywide nurse residency program being implemented in New York hospitals, visit here.

Minnesota Universities Are Accelerating Change in Health Care Education, Including Nursing

Minnesota Universities Are Accelerating Change in Health Care Education, Including Nursing

To fill the industry pipeline, Minnesota colleges and universities are finding ways to make health care education more accessible to students. The state’s population is growing and becoming more diverse, and baby boomers are retiring from medical sector jobs and requiring more health care as they age. To meet this expanding demand for care, the number of health care workers in the US will need to increase by 30 percent by 2020 – totaling more than 400 jobs.

Minnesota will also need more health care workers, from clinicians to educators and administrators. In response, colleges and universities in the state are finding ways to make health care education more accessible by creating programs that move faster, happen online, serve rural and ethically diverse communities, engage older students, and disseminate good ideas quickly.

In addition to a general shortage of health care workers, Minnesota also has a shortage of nurses. St. Catherine University in St. Paul is trying to help address the issue by adding new ways to educate nurses, particularly those above the traditional college age.

Kim Dinsey-Read, interim dean of nursing and assistant professor of nursing at St. Catherine’s Henrietta Schmoll School of Health, tells tcbmag.com, “We’ve added a bachelor’s program in nursing to our College for Adults. Often students already have a degree or a lot of transfer work, and they’re often older than traditional college students, with families and adult lives.”

The university also offers a master’s degree program for students who already have bachelor’s degrees in other subjects and want to become entry-level nurses. Students in both adult nursing programs do most of their work online, aside from lab work and clinical placements which occur at hospitals around the Twin Cities. St. Catherine’s nursing educator program is also entirely online which has increased enrollment. The university has seen proof that making it easier for more nurses to earn their degrees helps boost enrollment and ease the nursing shortage.

To learn more about the many efforts being made by Minnesota colleges and universities to offset the shortage of health care workers in the state, including nurses, visit here.

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