In response to numerous requests, the Council on Nursing Practice, in collaboration with the Council on Ethical Practice and the Committee on Impaired Nursing Practice, developed the following opinion and recommendations regarding drug testing of professional nurses in the workplace.
This opinion is based on the New York State Nurse Practice Act, the ANA Code for Nurses, ANAs "Statement on Drug Testing for Health Care Workers," the 1985 NYS Impaired Professionals Law and existing NYS regulations which address the health screening of employees (NYCRR, Chapter 5, 405.3).
The abuse of alcohol and other substances among healthcare workers is an unfortunate, but real health problem. Professional nurses who abuse alcohol and/or other drugs endanger their own well-being as well as the health and safety of the consumer. Measures taken to address this problem must provide protection and assistance for professional nurses as well as promote the safe delivery of health care.
The ANA Code for Nurses requires the professional nurse to safeguard the client from harm; to assume responsibility and accountability for all of her/his actions; to maintain competency and to participate in the professions efforts to establish and maintain conditions of employment conducive to the delivery of high quality nursing care. In New York State, the Regents Rules on Unprofessional Conduct (Section 29.1), the General Provisions for the Health Professions (Section 29.2) and Title VIII of the Education Law (Article 130, Subsections 3 and 4) address the states concern with the unprofessional conduct of a licensee. The NYS Impaired Professionals Law (1985) provides a system which encourages a licensed health care professional to voluntarily surrender her/his license while undergoing rehabilitation for alcohol or other substance abuse.
NYSNAs Committee on Impaired Nursing Practice has identified a threefold responsibility for the professional association regarding the issue of drug testing:
In addition, the Committee on Impaired Nursing Practice believes that the work place provides an ideal setting for early intervention with employees who are affected by health problems, including the diseases of alcohol and drug abuse. This belief is expanded in NYSNAs document, "A Guide to Developing Peer Assistance Programs."
The New York State Nurses Association endorses the American Nurses Associations "Statement on Drug Testing for Health Care Workers." The NYSNA supports such a practice when it is based on reasonable suspicion and/or objective evidence that job performance is or has been impaired by alcohol or other drug usage. All health care practitioners should be treated according to the same standards. The NYSNA opposes random screening of body fluids of health care workers for alcohol or other drugs.
The New York State Nurses Association strongly suggests that any drug-testing program of professional nurses by employing facilities include the following recommendations. These recommendations suggest actions which acknowledge the rights and responsibilities of employees and employers.
An employer or employing agency should:
An Employee Should:
In conclusion, the New York State Nurses Association affirms and emphasizes two issues:
NYSNA believes that this position statement provides a professional approach to a complex, sensitive issue currently confronting the healthcare delivery system and society in general.
Approved by the NYSNA Board of Directors, 7/11/87. Developed under the direction of NYSNAs Council on Nursing Practice in collaboration with the Council on Ethical Practice and the Committee on Impaired Nursing Practice.
Drug Testing of Professional Nurses
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For more information on nursing practice, contact NYSNA's Education, Practice and Research Program at 518.782.9400, ext. 282 or by e-mail.