What are the three measures that should be taken when reporting a nurse suspected of impairment?
Nancy Brent replies:
It is unclear what three measures you are referring to, but suffice it to say that in any situation when you report a fellow colleague for misconduct, impairment, or any other situation, truthful, factual, and objective descriptions of the behavior of the nurse are essential. Dates and times that the nurse was observed conducting him- or herself as reported would also be helpful. The reporting must be done pursuant to the employers policy for reporting conduct not consistent with the employers adopted code of conduct for employees.
It is also essential, and especially so when reporting a nurse colleague for impairment, that the reporting be done in a confidential manner. Although it may seem that what is observed is impairment, taking medications from patients, or whatever, it may turn out that what is labeled as impairment or diversion of medications did not occur. Because any allegation of misconduct, including impairment, can damage a persons reputation (among other ramifications), it is essential that the reporting be done only to whom it is to be reported.
Should you think that a nurse colleague needs to be reported elsewhere in addition to the employer, a consultation with a nurse attorney or attorney in your state can help guide you through the process of reporting the conduct outside the agency. One example would be to report the nurse to the state board of nursing pursuant to the state nurse practice act and rules.
Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.