RNs have difficult jobs and have nowhere to turn initially if they face addiction.
‘WHEN NURSES FAIL’
Star Tribune series may lead to distrust
My name is Anna, and I am an RN in the emergency department at Hennepin County Medical Center.
I first read the article “Addicted nurses keep licenses” (Nov. 2) in our breakroom last Sunday. I thought about it all night. I first asked myself if my attitude toward nursing was idealistic rather than realistic. I told myself that it is important for all professions to be transparent about their weaknesses. But still, I felt deflated.
Every day that I work, I have to remind myself to maintain a good attitude and keep going. I’ve even had to write “Keep your moral compass” on my left forearm in Sharpie so that I can remain centered as I take care of the sick, the intoxicated, the prisoner, and the suicidal. I’ve frequently been cursed as patients try to spit on or bite me. Or, on the opposite spectrum, you may find me crying along with my patient and their family after they have been delivered terrible news of a terminal condition.
I find myself saddened as I acknowledge the misunderstandings that I will have to deal with in the future. The premise of the Star Tribune series “When nurses fail” makes for great stories, but you and I both know the effect front-page articles like this have on people’s subconscious: distrust. What if that crucial first eye contact changes from vulnerable trust to suspicion?
This is a favorite moment: When someone is scared on arrival, maybe bleeding, maybe in a neck brace, and I can look them in the eye and say, “Hi. I’m Anna, your nurse. You’re going to be OK.”
ANNA DYKHUIS, Minneapolis
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It is easy to use scare tactics and worst-case scenarios to try to unduly influence people on what is actually a very complicated topic. (I am an attorney who is quite familiar with the nursing cases. From 1993 to 2000, I was an assistant attorney general working with the Board of Nursing, and now in private practice I proudly represent nurses and other health care professionals.)
Like every human being, health care professionals experience challenges and struggles. What matters is how they respond.
Of course, no one disputes that the public needs to be protected from unsafe practitioners. But chemical dependency is a disease, and many nurses have been able to implement a strong and successful recovery program that allows them to return to a safe practice after active chemical dependency.
MICHAEL J. WEBER, Minneapolis
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One thing that continues to be left out of the coverage is that nurses initially have nowhere to go for help.
I went to my doctor, counselor and more with my concern that I was becoming addicted to narcotics. Each one of them was licensed by a board and was under oath to report me to my board. If they gave me advice or even listened and didn’t report me, they risked their own licenses. Not having a resource was the main reason I spiraled into severe addiction. How to help nurses before it affects the public would be a great direction to focus on.
Another key question is why addiction for RNs is on the rise. Workload? Pay? Stress? Lack of connection to the doctors for help? Acuity of patient? There is something wrong, but there is a bigger picture than what the Star Tribune is writing about.
MARIE MECHLEY, Minneapolis
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.