As a nurse, it is your obligation to provide a certain standard of care to your patients. Regardless of whether you work in a hospital, in a nursing home or in the homes of patients who require hospice care, you have to adhere to certain standards regarding the care that you provide.
Timely and appropriate administration of medication, including pain medication, is often a key component of modern medical care provided by nurses. Unfortunately, nurses sometimes also need pain relief or may even have an addiction to narcotic painkillers and may not have a prescription or access to what they need.
When that happens, nursing professionals may feel tempted to engage in drug diversion. Doing so could mean either criminal charges or ethics allegations that lead to the potential loss of their nursing license.
What are some common drug diversions scenarios for modern nurses?
There are a number of situations that could lead to drug diversion allegations against a nurse. The first and most obvious would involve a nurse who knows that a patient needs a certain amount of pain medication and takes those pills for themselves anyway. They might replace an oxycodone pill with sodium naproxen or Ibuprofen so that they can keep and later take the oxycodone themselves.
Other times, the patient may have refused pain medication or has made it clear that they need less than the doctor recommended. They could also be non-verbal or mostly unconscious, meaning they can’t speak for themselves. A nurse might pocket any extra pills, assuming that no one will notice the discrepancy because the patient doesn’t need them or at least can’t complain.
All it takes is a family member getting suspicious or a patient making a complaint for a nurse to face severe and career-altering consequences because of an addiction or chronic pain.
Drug diversion can put your patients at risk
If you suffer from either addiction or severe pain, those issues might compromise your decision-making ability. You may not stop to think about how inadequate pain management might affect someone’s health, recovery or quality of life. You may know that there are risks but assume that you are smart enough to not get caught. You could also make mistakes in care if you use medication while caring for patients.
If you find yourself facing drug diversion accusations, whether you feel the accusations are justifiable or not, it’s important that you know that you have the right to defend yourself not just in criminal court but also in front of a licensing board. Getting advice when a drug diversion issue comes to light can help you make smarter decisions and protect your ability to stay in the career that you love.