Understanding Substance Use Disorder in the clinical setting
Dr. Fara Bowler explains the dangers of substance use and how to prevent itCollege of Nursing Marketing | College of Nursing Oct 26, 2018
Substance Use Disorder (SUD) of the healthcare professional is rarely discussed in healthcare organizations. Each year, 10% of healthcare professionals are found to have a SUD in the clinical setting where they work; this includes nurses.
University of Colorado College of Nursing Assistant Professor Fara Bowler, DNP, ANP-C, CHSE has interest in SUD in nursing, finding that it is continues to be prevalent among nurses. Within nursing units, nurses are afraid to come forward and admit their condition because they do not want to jeopardize their jobs, or their licenses. However, educational interventions can be used to recognize the signs and symptoms of SUD and support nurses affected by SUD.
“With proper educational programs that are targeted toward nurse leaders, nurses with SUD can get the help they need,” said Bowler.
Educating nurse leaders
Bowler used surveys to gauge the understanding of SUD among nurse leaders by assessing attitudes and perceptions to learn how she could improve knowledge about SUDs. Additionally, she used interviews and an educational intervention to teach nurse leaders about SUDs.
After working with nurse leaders, Bowler evaluated nurse leader’s SUD knowledge. Not only were nurse leaders better educated, but they felt that education could decrease stigma and increase motivation to address the problem of SUD in their unit. However, the results concluded that better communication was needed to improve SUD in nursing units, so communication skills between nurse leaders and staff are essential when developing SUD interventions.
“Increased knowledge about SUD among nurse leaders is needed to recognize signs and symptoms among their staff. By targeting this education toward nurse leaders of the nursing unit, they can ensure nurses with SUD are removed from practice and given the care they need,” said Bowler.
Lessons for the future
There are both professional and personal risk factors to developing a SUD. Those with SUD are a harm to themselves, their patients, and their employers. Professionally, the demands of the job and the role as a nurse can lead to stress and burn out. A history of depression, sexual abuse, and alcoholism are also risk factors of SUD. When intoxicated, it can be dangerous to provide patient care, leading to substandard care, and impacting employers due to poor work performance and decreased trust and safety in the workplace.
However, training nurse leaders and their staff about SUD using educational interventions can provide the necessary knowledge to nurses about SUD and create a positive working environment.
“Education prepares nurses to recognize SUD in their colleagues, and with the proper tools it can help to implement early interventions to protect patient safety and reduce stigma,” said Bowler.
SUD is a challenging and complex issue for the nursing profession, and it is important to work to improve outcomes. While many nurses may not be coming forward with a SUD, education is key to understanding how to support and monitor nurses struggling with SUD.