What Are the Legal and Ethical Issues of Registered Nurses Taking Drugs While Working?

Written by harris krumme
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What Are the Legal and Ethical Issues of Registered Nurses Taking Drugs While Working?
Taking drugs from patients is illegal and could deny patients needed treatment. (drugs image by alimat from Fotolia.com)

Nurses who steal or use either prescription or illegal drugs while working face severe consequences if caught, including criminal charges, loss of license and firing. Using prescription drugs without a valid prescription is a serious legal matter, as it violates state and federal laws. From an ethical standpoint, taking drugs from a patient can deny that patient needed medical care, putting his recovery at risk.

Prescription Drugs

After nurses complete their training, they must obtain a nursing license from the state where they work. Stealing prescription drugs can result in that license being revoked by a state's Board of Nursing, which oversees the certification and actions of nurses. Each state has its own board of nursing, but all states prohibit nurses from taking drugs away from a patient for the nurse's personal use.

From an ethical standpoint, these actions violate a nurse's duty to use her training to help and assist patients, who are injured or ill.

Use of Illegal Drugs

Using illegal drugs has implications on several levels. Nurses, like other members of society, must obey state and federal laws regarding the use of illegal drugs. If a nurse takes illegal drugs while working, those substances could impair the higher thinking, reasoning and motor control skills necessary to perform for the performance of his duties. His inability to properly execute nursing tasks could put patients at risk.

Ethical Implications

Nurses are obliged to provide the best treatment possible to patients. If a registered nurse is taking drugs while working, she compromises her ability to provide good treatment, possibly putting patients at risk for further illness and injury that could lead to death.

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