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Why Jack Does What He Does.
RN Magazine “uncovered” the reasons in their April 2009 issue with the article, “Drug Addiction Among Nurses: Confronting a Quiet Epidemic”. Many RN's fall prey to this hidden, potentially deadly disease. (April 2009 issue of RN Magazine, )
Jack Stem was one of the professionals interviewed for this article. He, along with Patricia Holloran, RN, author of “Impaired: A Nurse's Story of Addiction and Recovery” (Kaplan Publishing, 2009), and Marilyn Clark Pellett, RN, JD, an attorney who has represented nurses in disciplinary hearings before the Connecticut Board of Nursing for many years, were contacted because of the number of nurses struggling with this chronic, potentially deadly disease. Stem is a recovering addict and former emergency room nurse and certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA). He has been a peer advisor since 2005, and is the chair of the Peer Advocacy for Practitioner Wellness Committee of the Ohio State Association of Nurse Anesthetists.
“This disease still carries a heavy stigma for those unlucky enough to find they have it. Despite the amazing growth in the knowledge and understanding of this disease, that knowledge hasn't made it to the front line care giver. Nurses and doctors still make decisions based on what I call the 3 Ms; Myth, Misbelief, and Misinformation. As a peer advisor for Ohio's nurse anesthetists, my job is to educate all practitioners and incoming students about the risk of substance abuse and addiction. This disease is the number one health risk associated with the practice of anesthesia, yet many anesthesia providers are unaware of that fact, or choose to ignore it. Denial about the disease isn't exclusive to those who have it. Friends, family and colleagues also fall victim to denial.”
Mr. Stem started his consulting and educational company, Peer Advocacy for Impaired Nurses, LLC, last October (2008) when it became clear he was receiving more and more calls from non-anesthesia nurses looking for help. The Ohio board of nursing developed an alternative to discipline program in the mid to late 1980's for nurses who voluntarily sought help for their impairment. The Ohio Nurses Association provided the monitoring service for Ohio nurses enrolled in the program. The alternative to discipline program is currently under review and the ONA is no longer involved. “As a result, nurses are caught between a rock and a hard place. They fear for their license, their ability to return to nursing after successful treatment for their disease. But their biggest fear is the stigma they will face from their family, the public, and their nursing colleagues”, says Stem. “Despite the acknowledgement by the AMA, ANA, and other professional organizations, that addiction is a disease, the attitude of health care providers continues to be negative, especially toward impaired professionals. If we ever hope to change the way addicts are treated personally and medically, we must first educate the health care providers about the disease of addiction. If health care professionals don't get it, how can we ever expect the average Joe and Jane to change their view?
We have over 25 million people in this country struggling with substance abuse and addiction. The average age where a person first tries a mood altering substance for "fun" is under 12 years. The most common place they obtain drugs is the medicine cabinet.
Why are we continuing to do things the way we always have when it clearly hasn't been successful? I'm just one individual who has experienced the shame and guilt associated with this disease. I was lucky to have people who love me enough to refuse to give up or let me give up. I'm just trying to pay that love and respect forward. No one should have to fight their own colleagues to get the treatment they need and deserve. Especially when their colleagues are health care professionals.”
About Peer Advocacy for Impaired Nurses, LLC
Founded by Jack Stem in 2008 to improve patient care and safety and to assist nurses in achieving long-term recovery. These goals are accomplished by assisting the nursing profession in early recognition and intervention of the impaired nurse. A variety of services are provided, including educational programs and workshops, assisting organizations in developing effective policies and procedures for preventing substance abuse and dealing with impaired nursing staff. Additional services are designed to assist the impaired nurse in obtaining appropriate, evidence based treatment for substance abuse and chemical dependence, relapse prevention, and recovery “coaching”.
For information on these and other services contact:
Peer Advocacy for Impaired Nurses, LLC
“Addicts are not bad people trying to become good, they have a potentially fatal disease and are trying to become well.”
Jack’s Sobriety Counter
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