Substance use disorders take a lot of things away from people, from jobs to relationships. Those who work in the healthcare profession are also susceptible to dealing with substance use disorders. It isn’t very easy for anyone to seek treatment. Still, these professionals have an even more challenging journey due to stigma and shame. Healthcare professionals have unique needs due to their work environments. Some may have easier access to controlled substances because of the nature of their job. While others have a difficult time just being in contact with patients who have substance use disorders. Some could have regular direct contact with others struggling with addiction, bringing up a conflict of interest. For these individuals, there are services that support professionals in finding help for substance use disorders and ultimately return to the profession they love.
Treatment for Professionals
A common misconception about healthcare professionals is that they maintain their health in the same ways they recommend to their patients. While some may make their physical and mental health a top priority, they often suffer in silence with debilitating illnesses like anxiety, stress, and substance use disorders. Though these caregivers’ priority is to focus on their patients and clients, they still are human. They have the same common issues and concerns as all people dealing with substance use disorders. Jobs in the medical field are high-stress with long hours and often difficult working conditions. Men and women working in the healthcare industry can become addicted to substances. Still, it depends on the individual as to where to seek treatment and support. Often the shame involved will deter professionals from entering a program for recovery. They must understand that numerous treatment options exist, and most offer confidentiality so they may begin treatment without worry.
Dealing with Pressures
Physicians and nurses develop substance use issues for different reasons. Those who work in the ER, anesthesiology, and psychiatry are at the highest risk. Nurses also struggle at a higher rate. Physicians are at least 30 times more likely than others to struggle with narcotics, opioids, and substance use disorders. During treatment for physicians, it helps to navigate all the reasons why they struggle to cope without substances and need support. Understanding the pressures experienced by physicians, nurses, and other providers helps to design a program that understands:
- Professional-centered care: dealing with professionals in healthcare is a specific niche. They have unique needs, so a program tailored to dealing with their anxiety and stress is helpful. For doctors, it helps to have them meet others in a program who understand what they deal with and how to navigate the journey of healing.
- Substances are more widely available to professionals in healthcare. The biggest challenge is supporting them in returning to work while not being triggered to use the substances they work with every day.
- Irregular work hours: working extreme hours does not help professionals heal. They don’t rest properly and are often not able to spend the time that is so important to focus on their family and self-care. Extended workdays and weeks without a day off are exhausting and don’t provide space for recreation, relaxation, or play.
The typical healthcare worker often puts others before themselves, which can be a jumping-off point for substance use. Their passion for helping and improving other’s health over their own self-care compounds the pressure they already feel. The stress of continually overextending oneself will only provide fertile ground for substance use disorders to take root.
Signs and Symptoms of Addiction
Healthcare professionals put their jobs at risk by having a substance use disorder, but it is not something they can exercise control over. In fact, it something they try desperately to hide and may even experience denial about having a problem. All they can do is reach out for help. In the meantime, there are signs of substance use disorder to be aware of. These include:
- Errors in medication distribution.
- Isolation from peers.
- Defensive behavior.
- Mood swings.
- Lack of concentration.
- Decreased documentation or quality of care.
- Slurred speech.
- Dilated pupils.
- Grooming changes.
- Weight changes.
- Personality shifts.
There is a wide range of programs available for professionals in healthcare. The challenge is making sure they get monitoring and treatment they need to re-enter the workforce without being triggered. Treatment should be a safe space where they can be vulnerable but challenged at the same time. Healthcare workers have specific needs that get more granular on a case-by-case basis. It is those particular needs that will guide them through treatment options. When people enter recovery, they have decided to some degree to deal with their substance use disorder. They will need lots of support on the other side. Re-entering the healthcare field after treatment brings a plethora of emotions, including fear, anxiety, and shame. It’s important not to let those emotions get the better, and instead focus on the new life the fresh start in their career after treatment. This means a solid aftercare plan is necessary when they leave treatment and embark on the next phase of their journey and stay on the path to recovery.
Ashley Addiction Treatment is an innovative treatment program located on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Ashley provides support for professionals seeking help with addiction. We are able to help people with co-occurring disorders and offer confidential treatment programs to meet your needs. Please reach out to us today at 800-799-4673.