What is Impairment?

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What is Impairment?

Impairment can be broadly described in a nurse as the evidence of some inability to deliver quality care in a safe and professional manner. Impairment may be due to factors other than chemical dependency such as psychiatric or medical conditions. Clearly those problems need intervention and treatment, as would chemical dependency.

Substance abuse and dependency is a significant problem among all health care professionals, in all areas of the country. It is a chronic, progressive illness which can be effectively treated. As with all other chronic illnesses, the earlier the intervention and initiation of treatment for abuse or dependency issues, the better is the prognosis for rehabilitation and safe return to work.

Some of the signs of chemical dependency in nurses are:

  • Mood swings; inappropriate behavior at work; frequent days off for implausible reasons; non-compliance with accepted policies and procedures; deteriorating appearance; deteriorating job performance; sloppy, illegible charting; errors in charting; alcohol on breath; forgetfulness; poor judgment and concentration; lying and excessive volunteering to pass medications.

Oppositely, another clustering of characteristics of a potentially chemically dependent or abusing nurse are:

  • High achievement, both as a student and nurse; volunteering for overtime and extra duties; no history of drug use until after a surgery or a chronic illness and a family history of alcoholism or addiction.
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