6th World Nursing and Healthcare Conference
International Health Facility Diversion Association, USA
Title: Theft of opioids by nursing personnel: An occupational risk that compromises patient safety
Biography: Kimberly S. New
Prescription drug abuse is a well-recognized issue in the US, Europe and elsewhere in the world. Healthcare personnel are not immune. While there are no reliable estimates of the prevalence of drug theft or diversion activities by healthcare personnel, diversion occurs regularly in facilities across the US and Europe. Cases reported in European literature bear striking similarity to North American cases. Access to narcotics represents an underappreciated occupational hazard and patient safety risk. Harm to patients from healthcare personnel who divert opioids may take many forms, including care delivered by an impaired provider, untreated pain, and infection risks stemming from tampering with injectable drugs. Since 2004, there have been 5 recognized hepatitis C outbreaks in the US associated with infected healthcare workers who diverted injectable opiods, involving more than 32,000 potentially exposed patients. Healthcare personnel who steal opioids are at substantial risk as well. They may suffer the physical and social implications of opioid abuse, risk criminal prosecution, and even overdose and die. The community may be impacted by DUI-related incidents involving impaired healthcare personnel. A formal program is essential to properly prevent, detect, and respond to diversion. A comprehensive program of staff education is crucial to fostering a culture of vigilance and open communication. Staff must be informed of the scope of the problem, the risks associated with diversion, and how to protect themselves and their colleagues. Basic patient and staff safety considerations demand effective, reliable safeguards to maintain the security of prescription opioids in healthcare settings.