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Nursing Home Nurse’s Overdose Highlights Staff Drug Abuse Problem

A nurse working at a nursing home in California was found dead on the job, after police say she suffered from a drug overdose.

Nearly 3,000 miles away, our Vero Beach nursing home negligence attorneys believe this story is relevant because it brings to light in a very dramatic way the larger issue of drug abuse by nurses.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that roughly 10 percent of all adults in the U.S. abuse drugs at some point during their life. Similarly, the American Nurses Association estimates that about 10 percent of nurses are dependent on drugs. So it’s not any higher than the average population, but the difference is nurses tend to have easier access to narcotics than those in other professions. Plus, nurses tend to work long hours with mandatory overtime in a job that is both physically, mentally and emotionally draining.

With 3 million nurses employed in the U.S., we’re talking about 300,000 registered nurses who are likely substance abusers. Another way to look at this is if there are 10 nurses working at your loved one’s nursing home facility, you can assume that one of those is battling some form of substance abuse or addiction.

The problem for your loved one is that a nurse who abuses drugs or, worse, is impaired on the job, is likely not able to provide safe and appropriate care. It can delay a nurse’s reaction time and affect her ability to make critical, split-second decisions. In a nursing home setting, that may have life-or-death consequences.

According to a recent article by American Nurse Today, nurses tend to abuse everyday medications that are available at work. If the nurse’s primary access to drugs is her patients’ medications, that means the patients may not be getting the drugs they need. This could mean not only might they be in unnecessary pain, but this too could result in fatal consequences.

We understand that most family members aren’t medical professionals who might be able to easily recognize the symptoms of an impaired nurse. Often, because these are individuals with higher-than-average drug knowledge, they are often very good at covering up their impairment. Generally, however, some things you may want to look out for include:

–Shakiness or tremors;
–Slurred speech;
–Frequent use of breath mints or mouthwash;
–Constricted or dilated pupils;
–Watery eyes;
–Walking unsteadily;
–Frequent runny nose.

Such suspicions should be reported immediately to the facility administration. If your concerns aren’t taken seriously and you believe that the nurse’s impairment may be having a negative effect on your loved one’s care, call us right away.

In the California case, the 28-year-old nurse was discovered in a bathroom, not breathing. Her elbow was bloody and there was a syringe in the sink. Police suspect the nurse was crushing patient pills and injecting them. She reportedly worked the overnight shift, and was responsible for dispensing prescription drugs to patients.

Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Death of nurse at nursing home investigated, Dec. 13, 2012, By Sarah Okeson, Springfield News-Leader

More Blog Entries:
Nursing Home Abuse: Always Question Staff’s Version of Injuries, Nov. 10, 2012, Vero Beach Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys’ Blog

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