Drug diversion–what you need to know

Drug diversion.  What exactly is this and why should nurses care?  Drug diversion is the act of taking medication assigned to a patient and giving it to another, usually the nurse.  Why should nurses care?  Well let’s see–poor patient care, it’s illegal, the nursing board frowns upon it, you can lose your nursing license if you get caught diverting medicine.  Just little things.

The other side of the problem is that nurses are exposed daily to so many medications, both controlled and not, that they become indifferent to the possibility of drug diversion.  Many a nurse has forgotten to give a med on time, or has put a shot in their pocket and forgot it.  Nursing sucks that way.  Never enough time, never sure that you did everything you need to do, too many patients to care for properly.  It is easy to become indifferent if you get too overwhelmed.

Nurses who divert drugs are not good nurses, granted.  They are impaired nurses who put patients in danger from under dosing of medications ordered for treatment.  Patients who need pain relief are not getting it and their status gets worse.

This is a big problem in healthcare, but one that should be easy enough to fix if we all put our heads together.  I have never worked with a nurse who wanted to harm patients.  I do not believe that the nurse who divert want to do harm to their patients.  I think this is a system problem that can be fixed.

Please read this article and make up your own mind about this topic.


Jennifer Thew, RN, October 4, 2016

Drug diversion and addiction among nurses is not uncommon, but

it is often misunderstood. An expert shares insights to improve


Have you ever worked with a colleague who diverted drugs to feed an addiction?

Chances are you have, though you may not have known it, since drug diversion and addiction are often very secretive issues. Most estimates put nurses’ drug and alcohol misuse at around 6% to 10%, or about one in 10 nurses.

This makes it highly likely that at some point in your career you’ll encounter a colleague or staff member who is, or will, divert and misuse drugs.

Yet, diversion and addiction are still misunderstood, says Laura Wright, PhD, CRNA, associate professor in the Department of Acute, Chronic, and Continuing Care at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, School of Nursing.

10 Ways to Halt Drug Diversion by Healthcare Workers

“Addiction is a disease, it’s not a moral defect,” she says. “But, when I talk about addiction, I still get people asking me, ‘Why would they ever do that? That’s an awful thing. How could they do that to their children?'”

Here are five things Wright, who is a member of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Peer Assistance Advisors Committee, (AANA) wants nurses to know about drug diversion and addiction.

1. Addiction is a disease.

Wright describes addiction as a “disease of choice.” What does this mean? I shared with her that I once had a colleague who, after going to a new employer, was caught diverting drugs.

When I worked with this nurse, they had sustained injuries from a car accident and had been prescribed prescription pain medication. Eventually, the nurse started mentioning that the medication wasn’t helping with the physical pain anymore.

“Tolerance builds and they need more,” Wright explains. “The brain has been rewired so that the drug becomes necessary for survival on a very unconscious level.”

This rewiring interrupts their ability to make proper choices and, biologically, addicts become unable to “just say no.”

2. Know the signs and behaviors of impairment.

There are often red flags that there is a problem with diversion and addiction well before the narcotics counts are “off.”

HR Strategies for Dealing with Drug Diversion

A nurse may become forgetful, unpredictable, or lack concentration. He or she may have frequent illnesses, physical complaints, and elaborate excuses for things. They may pick-up extra on-call shifts, have a labile mood with unexplained anger and overreaction to criticism, or have an increase in unexplained tardiness or absenteeism.

“When it gets to the point, when nurses are diverting, where it’s noticeable on audits and in the Pyxis, it’s way out of control,” Wright says of addiction.

3. Turning a blind-eye helps no one.

Colleagues who notice signs and behaviors of drug diversion and addiction are often hesitant to raise their concerns.

“The people who love them know that they’re a great nurse, and they don’t want to get them in trouble… because they’re worried …read the rest here.

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