Clukey, Lory

Committee Member

Sitzman, Kathleen L.,

Committee Member

Wilson, Vicki


Nursing Education


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created





205 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


Abuse of drugs and alcohol occurs across all cultures, generations, and occupations, including nursing. Nurse addiction is a topic of serious concern that is often dismissed or ignored in the profession. Impaired nurses can become dysfunctional in their ability to provide safe, appropriate patient care. This qualitative study explored the lived experience of nurses who were addicted to substances. Knowledge of this phenomenon may help guide nurses, nurse educators, and nursing students more accurately understand the reality of substance use disorder in the profession. In this qualitative study, 14 nurse addicts in recovery were interviewed about their experiences and risk perceptions. Five themes were identified from the study: (a) Fear was a significant part of the experience of being a nurse who was addicted; (b) Shame and guilt were felt by nurses who were addicted; (c) Poor coping: Addicted nurses reported having underdeveloped coping skills; (d) Control: Addicted nurses felt an increased need to control their environments; and (e) A core problem inherent in nurses who were addicted was a belief that addiction would never happen to them. Discussion of the five identified themes was followed by a discussion about addiction risk, prevention, and suggestions for application in nursing education. Participants discussed their experience with nurse addiction in their nursing education experiences and offered suggestions for more effective ways to teach the subject in nursing school. Implications for nursing education were then discussed, including using peer educators, namely, recovering nurse addicts, as teachers of this subject. Finally, the overall theme identified was that addicted nurses often felt misunderstood and judged, and they desired to be accepted among others in the profession.

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Copyright is held by author.