Nurses’ perceptions related to impaired nurses and knowledge of substance use disorder within the nursing profession

Rhonda K. Pecoraro, Susan B. Prude, Dari K. Calamia, Eileen L. Creel


Objective: Substance Use Disorder continues to be a problem within the nursing profession. Studies have been conducted to examine various aspects of Substance Use Disorder. Although programs have been implemented to help rather than punish nurses, knowledge barriers that affect reporting still exist. The purpose of this study was to examine nurses’ perceptions of impaired nurses, perceptions of reporting an impaired nurse, and perceptions of knowledge regarding Substance Use Disorder within the nursing profession.

Methods: A mixed-method descriptive study was conducted using the Perception of Nursing Impairment Inventory tool, as well as three open-ended questions. Lazarus and Folkman’s Transactional Model of stress and coping was used to guide the study and nurses from one state’s nurses’ association in the southeastern region of the United States participated.

Results: Based on quantitative findings, most disagreed with the statement there is little that can be done to help impaired nurses and agreed that nurses have an ethical obligation to report if impairment is suspected. Conflicting views were identified for multiple statements on the Perception of Nursing Impairment Inventory. The qualitative findings revealed average or below average knowledge of SUD and identified barriers that may affect reporting.  Further, a culture surrounding the ethical dilemma of reporting was evident.

Conclusions: Educational gaps exist between recognizing and reporting the problem of Substance Use Disorder. Although nurses acknowledge an obligation to report, many barriers to reporting were identified. Recommendations were made for additional qualitative research related to nursing education including conflicted feelings about doing what is “right.”

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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