Nurse Jackie
Nurse Jackie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you work with a Nurse Jackie?

If you don’t happen to subscribe to Showtime, The Movie Network or Movie Central, you may have no point of reference to Nurse Jackie. The series premiered on June 8, 2009, so soon it will be five years old and the sixth season premiered on April 13, 2014. It is what is called in the business a “dark satirical comedy-drama series” which takes place in an emergency department of a New York City hospital. Each episode is 30 minutes in length.

Just the other day an associate explained that she had never seen the show, but happened upon it during “Watchathon Week” and was drawn into Season 5 of Nurse Jackie. Our associate was able to piece together the ongoing storyline and realize that Jackie Peyton is in fact a registered nurse, mother, soon to be divorced wife, friend, co-worker, part time girlfriend and a reluctant member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Jackie is addicted to prescriptions medications and perhaps more.

So why ask if you work with a Nurse Jackie? Check out the following headline…

USA Today “Doctors, medical staff on drugs put patients at risk…”

A USA TODAY review shows more than 100,000 doctors, nurses, medical technicians and health care aides are abusing or dependent on prescription drugs in a given year, putting patients at risk.

 Here are some startling facts that are highlighted in this news article:

  • Nearly 8,000 people in eight states needed hepatitis tests after David Kwiatkowski, an itinerant hospital technician, was caught injecting himself with patients’ pain medicine and refilling the syringes with saline. He infected at least 46, mostly in New Hampshire.
  • “Drug diversion” is the official term used to describe the act of a health care worker stealing drugs.
  • The latest drug use data from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, released in 2007, indicated that an average of 103,000 doctors, nurses, medical technicians and health care aides a year were abusing or dependent on illicit drugs. Various studies suggest the number could be far higher; an estimated one in 10 practitioners will fall into drug or alcohol abuse at some point in their lives, mirroring the general population.
  • Safeguards to detect and prevent drug abuse in other high-risk industries rarely are employed in health care. No state has universal drug testing requirements, and hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities almost never do so on their own. Many institutions also lack video surveillance and high-tech systems to track dangerous drugs.
  • Many states lack rules to ensure that medical facilities alert law enforcement or regulatory agencies if they catch employees abusing or diverting drugs, so those staffers often are turned loose to find new jobs without treatment or supervision. Disciplinary action for drug abuse by health care providers, such as suspension of a license to practice, is rare and often doesn’t occur until a practitioner has committed multiple transgressions.

Here is a USA Today video discussing “drug diversion”

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Some final thoughts…

USA Today’s investigative reporting is important and needed. Remember to take the time to read the whole article. Perhaps it will start the conversation. The questions raised are not new, but like everything else in life, we have a new generation of medical professionals and patients that are impacted by the disease of addiction and in their own ways looking for help.

Sometimes television (and movie) characters serve as teachers. As viewers we might see something that opens our eyes to what we have noticed in our spouse, child, sibling, parent, friend and yes, co-workers. Nurse Jackie comes in all walks of life, the only difference is she can “divert” the drugs as opposed to doctor shopping, stealing them or buying them on the streets.

Writing today we thought back to another fictional television emergency department located in Chicago. ER (1994-2009) had Dr. John Carter. Wikipedia reminds us…

As a result of Carter’s chronic battle with pain, survivor guilt, and resistance to getting help, he eventually develops a narcotic addiction and begins to make a series of errors on the job. After Abby Lockhart catches him injecting left-over fentanyl from a trauma into his wrist, Carter’s colleagues hold an intervention and Dr. Greene demands he go to an inpatient rehab center for medical doctors in Atlanta or be fired. Although initially opposed to going, Dr. Benton confronts him outside the hospital and boards the plane with him.

Remember recovery is possible…

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