Impaired Nurse: Ethical and legal ramifications

According to the American Nurses Association, an impaired nurse is unable to meet the requirements of the code of ethics and standards .Health professional impairment is, unfortunately, a common problem in healthcare. Impairment results when a health professional, such as a physician, nurse, is unable to provide competent and safe patient care. Impairment may also result from a psychological or neurologic condition that affects the health professional’s judgment. As a result of this impairment, the health professional cannot safely perform their duties responsibly

Impaired nurse ethical and legal ramifications

Addressing ethical and legal dimensions of impairment from the perspective comes from nurse manager. The value of a rehabilitative rather than a punitive approach to the chemically impaired nurse is emphasized. Ethics of care and relevant legal considerations, including the Americans With Disabilities Act, are explored through case analysis. Covenantal relationships offer a framework for examining the responsibilities of the nurse manager with respect to the community, employer, the actual or allegedly chemically impaired nurse, and one’s self.

Types of impairment

Impairment may occur due to :

  • Alcohol,
  • Prescription or nonprescription drugs
  • mind-altering substances
  • sleep

Impacts of nurse impairment

Even though some impaired nurses may appear to function well, the potential for harm exists.  as An impaired nurse can impact themselves, patient, co-workers or even  the agency. It can affect their health, for example, hypertension, cardiovascular and liver disease.They also may cause traumatic injuries, and even death by overdose, injury or suicide. Additionally, professional practice such as patient harm leads to loss of respect and trust from colleagues. Consequently, loss of self-respect, suspension, probation or termination from the job and disciplinary action by the nursing board).

Evidence of nurse impairment

The following are some of the signs impaired nurses may show:

  •  Requests to change to a shift with less supervision
  •  Inappropriate behavior or behavior that doesn’t fit the situation
  •  Nervousness, irritability, or excessive mood swings
  •  Frequent absenteeism or tardiness
  •  Illegible, incomplete, or missed documentation
  •  Use of mouthwash, mints, or gum to disguise breath odor.

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