Factors Substance-misusing Nurses Perceive as Influential in Choosing to Seek Help

Margaret Leppanen (2010)

This study examined factors perceived by nurses who were concerned about their alcohol or drug misuse as influencing their decision regarding whether or not to seek help. The guiding hypotheses were: (a) Nurses may not be aware of the resources available to help them with a substance misuse problem; and (b) Nurses who are aware of available resources do not seek help due to feelings of shame, guilt about their illness and drug-seeking behaviors, and/or fear of losing their job or professional nursing license. Seventeen nurses recovering from substance misuse were interviewed telephonically. The substance most misused was narcotic pain medications. Most of the nurses felt fearful of losing their job or license, shame about their addiction, and guilt about taking medications from their work setting. All of the nurses were aware of at least one recovery resource, but most did not seek information or help from them, citing generally negative perceptions of them. The nurses most often stated they could deal with the misuse on their own, felt ashamed of having to admit to having a problem that led them to seek that help, and had concerns regarding resource confidentiality. These findings suggest the need for educating nurses about their vulnerability to misusing substances, disseminating accurate information regarding recovery resources, and the need for tempering the shame associated with seeking help.