The most common cause of impairment in physicians is addiction. Doctors are more likely to misuse prescription drugs than their patients, studies suggest. “An estimated 10 percent of health care professionals abuse drugs — about the same rate as the general public.” (DrugRehab.com, https://www.drugrehab.com/addiction/common-professions/ )
Doctors abuse drugs for various reasons:
A 2009 study compared drug use by different types of doctors, and found that psychiatrists and emergency room doctors use drugs the most, surgeons the least.
“The study also revealed:
A 2012 study found 15.4% of surgeons suffered from alcohol abuse. Female surgeons were more likely to exhibit symptoms of alcohol addiction than male surgeons. “The consequences of the alcohol problems were frightening. Surgeons who reported feeling burned out or depressed were the most likely to have an alcohol use disorder, as were surgeons who reported making a major medical error within the previous three months.”
How the general public can identify an impaired doctor or nurse:
Why the Silence by Colleagues?
A 2010 study showed that 17% of 1,891 physicians who were surveyed knew of an impaired or incompetent doctor within the past three years. However, only 67% reported their colleagues to proper authority. Physicians working in small practices are even less likely to report an incompetent colleague.
Reasons doctors gave for not reporting:
In most states, addicted physicians can get help through a confidential physician health program (PHP), which allows them to seek help without disclosing their identity to the National Practitioner Data Bank. Studies report that PHP’s are more successful than alternative plans. PHP’s offer a “full continuum of care and a detailed treatment plan backed by support groups such as AA or NA.” (DrugRehab.com, https://www.drugrehab.com/addiction/doctors/ ) The program is usually five years in duration, and is open to residents, nurses, physician assistants, dentists, pharmacists and veterinarians.
After Treatment, Can They Go Back to Work?
Physicians can return to work, “with proper monitoring, a solid addiction recovery program and enrollment in a PHP.” The PHP will ensure compliance by a physician using a contract.
The good news is a Mayo Clinic Study shows that physicians in recovery have between 74% and 90% abstinence rates. This is most likely due to their determination to keep their license.
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Other online references used in this article: