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Privacy and confidentiality of health information. OR substance abuse in health care professionals you can choose either of these topics.
Analysis, synthesis, and critical thinking skills are demonstrated.
The paper integrates material from course textbook and/or other scholarly sources as appropriate.
Discussion is logical and clear; presentation of ideas is organized; evidence supports the discussion; writing style is concise.
Scholarly Format of Paper or Project
Paper/project adheres to page limits.
Critical thinking, scholarly writing and APA scholarly format, good writing, and critical thinking are the three most important criteria by which you will be judged in your papers. Each criterion carries equal weight in assigning marks. 


Healthcare professionals play a vital role in the society because their services have a significant effect on both members of the community and the economic development of a country. As a result, different level of professional conduct is expected of them (Rogers & Ballantyne, 2010). Substance abuse among healthcare professions is likely to become risky to them and have dire ramifications on their fitness and performance to offer quality healthcare services. Studies have shown that incidences of substance abuse among healthcare professionals commence at the start of their work (Jackson, Shanafelt, Hasan, Satele, & Dyrbye, 2016). The impact of substance abuse among Canadian health care professionals cannot be underrated. Studies have indicated that substance abuse among healthcare professionals is slightly above (10%-15%) than in the general public and yet they are more knowledge regarding the side effects of substance and drugs (Merlo, Trejo?Lopez, Conwell, & Rivenbark, 2013). Substance abuse causes cognitive impairment which makes the nurses and other practitioners unable to make timely clinical decisions thus risking the lives entrusted to them through misdiagnosis. 4.4% of Canadians aged 15 years and above tested positive for substance abuse disorders (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2016). The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (2011) approximates the misuse of drugs and substance to be a little higher for healthcare experts. This paper aimed at exploring this issue and make recommendations for improved healthcare services.

Substance or drug abuse has become one of the leading public health issues in health over the past decades due to the gravity of the effects which are beyond the biological limit. Drug and substance abuse may lead to increased rates of morbimortality which results in high social and economic costs (WH0, 2014).  The effects of substance abuse are generally known both in the public domain and the health sector. Substance abuse significantly affects working associations, reduces performance and compromises workplace safety, as well as increased absenteeism and presenteeism occurrences 1,2. Healthcare experts are generally perceived to be the ambassadors of health habits and are typically expected to exhibit healthier lifestyles, unlike the general population, in addition to low substance abuse and an increase of exercise (WH0, 2014). Nevertheless, the reports by WH0 (2014) and VicHealth (2012) have indicated that the rate of substance abuse and addiction among various health care professionals is not that much different from the general population, and healthcare providers exhibit a higher degree of the misuse of opioid.

These issues of substance abuse among healthcare professionals are alarming especially in a provider population because they can result in serious issues for the patients under treatment care of the doctors and nurses.  Problematic substance use affects the cognitive functioning of healthcare professionals and decision making and their capacity to manage stressful circumstances. Moreover, substance abuse amongst healthcare experts contravene their standards of ethical practice and compromises patient safety. Osmond (2011) reports that about 20% of healthcare experts are victims of substance and drug abuse just like it is in the general population. The Canadian Nurses Association also reported problematic substance abuse by nurses to be one of the factors that affected the nursing profession in Canada (Mental Health Commission of Canada, n.d.). Therefore, there is a need for emphasizing on the substance abuse among healthcare professionals due to the negative impacts associated with it.

Definition and Scope

Substance abuse is defined as scenarios in which the use of a substance adversely affects the ability of an individual to practice in a safe, competent, and ethical way (Halley Grigsby, Forster, Soto, Baezconde-Garbanati, & Unger, 2014). Problematic substance use among Hispanic adolescents and young adults: implications for prevention efforts. Substance use & misuse, 49(8), 1025-1038. In some instances, drug and substance abuse among healthcare experts can degenerate to substance use disorder (SUD) which is a disease that can advance further to higher chronic levels if not promptly treated. The issue substance abuse can be dated back to the 1970s when it was recognized as ‘habits of intemperance,’ and no official policy was developed by the American Medical Association by then to address the issue. However, since then there has been increasing incidences of prescription and substance abuse addiction among healthcare professionals more so for anesthetic and pain relievers across the world (Merlo, Trejo?Lopez, Conwell, & Rivenbark, 2013; Merlo, & Gold, 2008). The study by Merlo et al.( 2013)carried out in the U.S have indicated that 10%-15% of healthcare experts will abuse substances during their lifetime with the incidences of misuse in drug prescriptions and addiction being five times higher among nurses and doctors than in the general population especially for benzodiazepine and opioid abuse (Merlo et al., 2013; Merlo, & Gold, 2008).

The commonly abused substances in Canada are alcohol, opioid pain treatment, and cannabis. These substances are used in multiple places such as for leisure, but the impact can still be felt at home, workplace performance and safety. Some of the risk factors associated with substance abuse among nurses in Canada include easy access to alcohol and other substances, stress, boredom, isolation, fatigue, job dissatisfaction, overworking, shift work, lack of managerial supervision, and lack of appreciation (Mental Health Commission of Canada, n.d.).

The Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) surveyed in 2012 and found out that 4.4% of Canadians aged 15 years and above and which represents about 1.3 million people fulfilled the tests for substance abuse disorder (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 2016). This trend is likely to be experienced at the workplace according to The Mental Health Commission of Canada (2017). The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (2011) approximates the misuse of drugs and substance to be a little higher for healthcare experts. One out ten nurses is likely to be addicted to Substance Abuse (College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia, 2011).

Bettinardi-Angres, Pickett, and Patrick (2012) elucidate that Alcohol abuse is predominantly abused by the general public, but narcotics are mostly abused by nurses. Healthcare professionals are knowledgeable regarding medications and are confident that they can self-medicate without being addicted. Most of the healthcare experts have ease of access and are highly exposed to controlled drugs and substances at their workplace. The College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia (2016) defines drug diversion as the unlawful misdirection or misapplication of any medication. Stealing and meddling with controlled drugs and substances are critical kinds of a professional misdemeanor which makes one liable for investigation and fines under the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (1996). For instance, a nurse hiding a section of the patient’s dose for himself or herself or requesting a colleague to co-sign for drug wastage falsely. Studies have indicated that Alcohol or drug use can impede discernment, understanding and decision making, weaken cognitive and motor function and can negatively influence how one reacts to stressful circumstances (Bernardin, Maheut-Bosser, & Paille, 2014).  This compromises patient safety.

Risk Factors and Causes

Healthcare providers face multiple challenges associated with substance abuse. Most of these challenges are risk factors that predispose them to the misuse of drugs.  Most of the healthcare professionals have easy access to alcohol and controlled drugs in their workplace. This makes it difficult to avoid the use of the drugs even if one had no intention of misusing it.

Additionally, healthcare professionals such as pharmacists and nurses are the ones that mostly administer drugs to the patient. This increases the possibility of them reserving some other medications for their use especially when there is no close supervision. Kenna and Lewis (2008) examined risk factors for substance abuse among healthcare professionals and found out that drug access at the workplace influenced most of the nurses to commence drug misuse.

Another challenge faced by the healthcare professionals that exposes them to drug misuse is increased stress at the workplace due to overworking and fatigue. The duties of healthcare providers are beyond mere medication but also involves intimate association and relationship building.  This makes their work demanding thus increasing tension levels especially when they work for more hours. Studies have indicated the nursing profession is one of the leading stressful professions with high rates of resignations and career change (Aiken, Sloane, Bruyneel, Van den Heede, & Sermeus, 2013). As a result, nurses resort to drug medications such as anesthetic to minimize stress levels. Continual use of pain relievers increases their dependency until they become addicted (Groh & Rouen, 2014).

Long hours and shift work are some of the challenges faced by healthcare professionals and which exposes them to substance use. Long hours and shift work mainly in the nursing profession has been associated to fatigue and job dissatisfaction thus making employees resort to the use of pain relievers which they easily access while at the hospital (Er, & Sökmen, 2018).  Research has also shown that nurses are overworked by the system of shift work and long hours at work (Caruso, 2014). As a result, they divert drugs meant for patients to their use so that they can remain active while on duty, an act if done continuously might lead to addiction (Mental Health Commission of Canada, n.d.).

Substance abuse has severe impacts on nurses and the nursing system. Drug diversion can lead to severe legal and ethical consequences. Diversion of prescribed drugs can lead to fines and even imprisonment, revocation of practicing license, job loss and poor health or even death (Berge, Dillon, Sikkink, Taylor, & Lanier, 2012).

Misuse of drugs can also lead to cognitive impairment which will affect the process of decision making which is very critical in offering treatment services. This implies that healthcare experts will not provide quality care services and their miss-judgment is likely to increase the patient’s risk of misdiagnosis. Nibbelink and Brewer (2018) examined critical decision making in nursing practice and elucidated that nurses were always involved in acute care which demands different decision-making skills for effective healthcare services. A study conducted by Harker Burnhams, Dada, Linda, Myers, and Parry (2013) on the effect of drug abuse on workplaces found out that alcohol addiction hurt employee performance at work due to cognitive impairment and poor decision-making process.

Impact on Patient Safety and Healthcare Services

Drug abuse among health professionals increases patient risk of complications and even death due to the poor healthcare services provided by nurses or physicians while under drugs. Cares, Pace, Denious, and Crane (2015) surveyed nurses and assessed the use of drugs and associated mental disorders and hindrances to medication. The authors indicated that mental illness was present among nurses addicted to substance abuse and they could not seek medical assistance for fear of losing their practicing license. This aspect further exposed the patients to poor healthcare services because the nurses were not deemed to be in a proper mental state to offer treatment even though they were still practicing. Poor quality health services as a result of substance misuse among healthcare professionals impact the healthcare system by causing a negative reputation. Practicing nurses found to be addicts to substance abuse causes disrepute to the licensing body, thus affecting the entire health system (Abuse & Office of the Surgeon General, 2016).

Substance abuse in health professionals will affect human resource management as well. Poor quality healthcare services due to substance abuse which impairs cognitive functioning (Bernardin et al., 2014) is likely to lead to job loss. Research has already indicated that most of the healthcare providers are affected by substance abuse more than the general population (Merlo et al., 2013). This suggests that healthcare providers will become few, increased workplace absenteeism and turnover.

As much as there exists programs of promoting patient safety, healthcare professionals affected by substance abuse are still under-assessed and unattended to for substance misuse and addiction (Merlo, & Gold, 2008) because of their reluctance, in addition to their workmates and families to report such cases for fear of the possible legal, ethical, and financial effects (Merlo, & Gold, 2008; (Research Update Buttler, Centre for Research, 2015). There is a need for treatment programs for healthcare professionals who misuse drugs because the Canadian State medical board expects enhanced treatment levels for quality healthcare (Merlo., 2013). The healthcare providers that abuse opioids are more likely to suffer from relapse unlike the general population (Bowen et al., 2014), thus calling for advanced post-treatment approach and sustained recovery plans. The victims should be treated away from their medical community by physicians and counselors whom they are not familiar with (Merlo, & Gold, 2008). This will help to minimize any risk of bias during the intervention (DuPont, McLellan, Carr, Gendel, & Skipper, 2009.  The treatment approach utilized by McLellan, Skipper, Campbell, and DuPont (2008) showed that 81% of the patients who were enrolled in the treatment programs demonstrated improvements for five years. The treated healthcare experts can be checked for abstinence by undertaking random drug tests once the treatment has been found to be effective. Random drug testing was found to be more effective (96%) unlike those not exposed to mandatory testing (64%) (Research Update Buttler, Centre for Research, 2015).

According to Osmond (2011), lack of education on substance and drug abuse and fear for the consequences of substance abuse are the two main hindrances to effective intervention for the increased substance abuse among healthcare professionals. The different healthcare centers in Canada can offer a free education and intervention and awareness program to equip healthcare experts across Canada. The curriculum should be developed by experts in healthcare and psychology experienced in drug policy and the prevention and management of substance addiction (Soares, Vargas, & Formigoni, 2013). This education and awareness programme will aim to equip healthcare professionals on fundamental knowledge regarding substance abuse. The specific subjects to be covered include warning signs of addiction, information on the effects of substance and drugs on cognitive function, on relationships and work performance. The education and awareness programme will also deal with approaches on how to identify colleagues who have been addicted to drugs and the most appropriate way or reporting. The awareness program can be done by placing posters at designated places with warnings on substance abuse. Seminars can also be conducted twice to thrice a month based on the need. Experts on a different subject should be invited to give lectures on the same.

Prevention, Screening, Intervention, and Treatment

Studies have shown that education and awareness campaigns are most effective in addressing drug addictions. Johnston, Miech, O’Malley, Bachman, and Schulenberg (2015) carried out a study and found out that relevant campaign awareness and education on drug abuse led to significant reductions in the use of drugs.  I agree with the above approaches of addressing substance abuse because they are useful and reduce the effect of risk factors that prone the users to drug misuse.


Healthcare experts have a primary role of care to the patients entrusted to them hence the reason for the high expectations for professional care. It is alarming that the rate of drug and substance abuse amongst the nurses and physicians is slightly higher than that reported in the general public, and yet these medical practitioners are more knowledgeable on the effects of substance misuse. The increasing cases of substance abuse amongst healthcare professionals compromise their duty leading to legal, ethical and economic costs. There, therefore, need for treatments to addicted individuals to alleviate the current condition and an education and awareness intervention to help prevent future occurrence of the problem


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