Workshop to examine nurses with substance abuse issues

Posted Aug. 10, 2010, at 9:17 p.m.

Nurses face unique challenges in recovering from alcohol or drug addiction. The stress of their work and their ready access to narcotics and other prescription drugs increase the risk for developing a chemical dependency. The stern eye of employers and the rigorous oversight of licensing boards conspire against admitting their illness and seeking help.

And, if they are disciplined for professional misconduct related to substance abuse, or charged with legal infractions, nurses’ reputations may be forever tarnished and their livelihoods lost.

A workshop in Augusta will explore the issue of chemical dependency in nurses. The event will offer a full day of informational presentations and activities aimed at helping to prevent, identify and intervene in cases of substance abuse in nursing professionals.

“The nurses who are the very sickest with their addictions don’t ask for help,” said Mindy Armstrong, case manager for nurses at the Medical Professionals Health Program. “But the sooner somebody gets into treatment and supportive assistance, the better it is for them, their families and their patients.”

The Medical Professionals Health program, run by the Maine Medical Association, provides structured support and oversight to doctors, dentists, pharmacists, nurses and other licensed health care providers who are trying to recover from addiction. Doctors in Maine have had access to this special program since 1985, but only since last January has it been open to nurses.

Armstrong, who is a registered nurse, will be one of several presenters at the workshop, which is titled “From Unbecoming a Nurse to Overcoming Addiction.” Also presenting will be registered nurse and author Paula Davies Scimeca, who has written two books about nurses and addiction. In addition, a panel of Maine nurses will discuss their own experiences and their recovery from chemical dependency.

The workshop, offered by the Maine Alliance for Addiction Recovery, the Maine Office of Substance Abuse and the Medical Professionals Health Program, will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10, at the Augusta Civic Center. It is recommended for nurses and nursing students, educators, health care administrators, substance abuse and mental health counselors and others interested in the issue. The cost is $50, with limited scholarships available. Continuing education credits will be awarded to eligible professionals.

For more information about the workshop, visit www.neias.org/SATAdcal.html#NURSING or phone Deb Dettor at the Maine Alliance for Addiction Recovery at 207-458-4366.

The next day, Saturday, Sept. 11, Scimeca again will be featured at the second annual recovery retreat held by the Maine Alliance for Addiction Recovery. Individuals in recovery are invited to attend the free event, along with their “recovery allies.” The retreat will feature sessions on self-care, the role of friends and family members, the spiritual elements of recovery and the importance of connecting with nature. The event is free, but registration is required. It will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Augusta Civic Center.

For more information or to register, visit www.masap.org/site/recovery.asp or phone Deb Dettor at the Maine Alliance for Addiction Recovery at 207-458-4366.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the date the Medical Professionals Health program was founded.

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