#2. There's No Incentive to Seek Help
Strangely, despite the fact that nursing has such a problem with drug addiction that they have recovery programs specifically for former nurses, there is no support whatsoever for nurses who are still working while on all the drugs in the universe. Each state has its own Board of Nursing, but they only have programs to help after you've hit rock bottom or hurt a patient. Which is, you know, kind of too late for the patient.
Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images
"I understand she's waving a scalpel, demanding drugs, but until she actually cuts someone, my hands are tied."
Oh, sure, they encourage you to come forward if you're struggling with addiction, but the State Board doesn't differentiate between people who come forward and people who get busted or kill a patient. In other words, asking for help is career suicide. There is no incentive to prevent a tragedy, other than your conscience, which unfortunately doesn't make as loud an argument once you have opioids dancing through your veins.
In my case, a staff member from human resources gave us a talk about calling the employee help line for any personal problems we might be experiencing, insisting that the whole thing was confidential. So I called, and the person I talked to turned me in. He told me it was a "mandatory reporting case," since I was using drugs at work and putting everyone around me at serious risk.
"Snitches get stitches ... so you're lucky we work here."
Objectively, that's the best thing that could've happened for me, but think about the message that sends to anyone in the vicinity who may have been struggling with their own addiction. "If you're an addict, keep that shit to yourself, or get fired."
#1. Hospitals Can't Fix the Problem, Even Though People Fucking Die
I know of a nurse who fatally overdosed a patient because of their addiction. It was late, this person had worked long hours, and on top of being tired, they were also high. Another nurse I know had waited to shoot up until they got home, but suddenly had to go back to the hospital to finish some paperwork. While they were there, they were asked to assist with a cardiac arrest. While catastrophically high.
If you're wondering how often this happens, that's the point -- nobody has any fucking idea. We know that there are over a million injurious medication errors every year in the United States, leading to at least one patient death every single day. Meanwhile, one study guessed that between 7 and 24 percent of nurses are chemically impaired on the job. So I'm going to go way out on a limb here and suggest that at least a few of those horrific errors came at the hands of nurses who were flying Opiate Airlines at the time.
Vladimir Surkov/iStock/Getty Images
"This is your captain, uhhhhhhhh, to your right, you'll see an RN tripping balls."
And if you're out there wondering why hospitals don't crack down and start drug testing hourly to flush all of the users out of their system ... they can't. We're currently facing a national nurse shortage; they already don't have enough staff to carry the load. Not that putting anybody on the street ever worked as a magical cure for addiction.
Just to be clear, I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. I betrayed the trust of my patients and put people in serious danger, so I don't expect any sympathy. However, I do hope that we can give this problem the attention it deserves, rather than demonize the nurses out there who are still battling their addictions. The study linked earlier found that 1 in 5 nurses have some kind of substance abuse problem. They're overworked, they're desperate, they're sick, and they're scared of losing their jobs, not to mention the respect and support of their friends and family (I lost my job, but my family stood by me). I don't know what has to change, but I'm pretty sure this counts as a problem that needs fixing, because like it or not, if you've been to a hospital, there's a fantastic chance the person sticking needles in your veins and tubes into your genitals was super high at the time.
"I don't know what's wrong with me, it's never taken me 34 tries to find a penis in your arm. I mean a vein in your penis. Vagina."
JF Sargent is an editor and columnist for Cracked.
Related Reading: Cracked's personal experience articles have run the gamut from an escaped refugee of North Korea to an unwitting accomplice to mass murder. We've made a habit of talking to people with unique experiences, including this undercover agent and a whole buncha drug dealers. Have a story YOU'D like to share with Cracked? We're right here.