Impaired health care providers have become common in many recent legal proceedings. According to Baldisseri (2007), an impaired provider is a person whose capacity to practice according to accepted standards is limited by substance use, misuse, or addiction. Impaired providers are blamed for creating medical errors and causing death to hundreds of thousands of patients every year. Some of the sign that can assist in recognizing impaired health care providers include falling asleep while working; increasing absenteeism; persistent errors; smell of cannabis, tobacco, or alcohol; poor personal hygiene, and slurred speech. Although nobody noticed Stephen Loyd’s behavior in his work, he claimed to change his behavior to worse (Eisler, 2014). Loyd used to cancel appointments, lagged behind in presenting his paperwork, and started to dress poorly.
Most American health professionals are struggling with drug abuse, thus, risking patients’ lives. An example of impaired healthcare providers is the case of Anita Bertrand, who could not remember the first time she took narcotics meant for surgical patients. According to Eisler (2014), Bertrand had unknowingly fixed an intravenous entry in her ankle where she could infuse the drug with ease. Bertrand’s impairment went unnoticed until when she was found unconscious in her car and an empty syringe near the seat. Although Bertrand went for counseling, she could not remember how many patients that she had put into risk.
Most state medical boards, which include the American Medical Association, require physicians to take an ethical obligation by reporting incompetent or impaired health care professionals (“Deal with physician impairment” 2013). When reporting an impaired provider, one must have a document or report showing questionable behaviors, as well as data indicating medical errors. Dates of alleged misconduct must be included in the report, as well as actions taken to advise patients of their rights (Adams, 2013). Approval from senior colleagues and health care administration can also help in presenting evidence of an impaired provider. Individuals have responsibilities of reporting impaired providers to avoid more errors in offering patient care. States also require health care facilities to make mandatory reporting in case they discover an impaired provider to avoid placing risks to the public.
Health care organizations potential liabilities for harboring impaired professionals include legal redress, cancelation of operating licenses, as well as civil penalty. In addition, hospitals may suffer when they lose health professionals through addiction. The medical profession may also suffer when some of its members die due to addiction. In 2013, New York’s Supreme Court declared that a hospital could not be held responsible for the death of a physician who died due to overdose of propofol medicine in the operation room (Eisler, 2014). Impaired health care providers may face legal redress ranging from suspension from their facilities to disciplinary actions administered by the state licensing authority.
Health organizations should permit impaired providers to go for rehabilitation to evade public reprimand or disciplinary actions imposed by the board. The Federation of State Medical Board recognized the need to rehabilitate alcohol and drug addicts in the health care to avoid medical errors and legal proceedings (Baldisseri, 2007). A special rehabilitation program helped Bertrand to recover from her impairment, and she never faced any disciplinary action because she volunteered to go for rehabilitation. Drug-abusing health care providers tend to self-diagnose, rather than seeking counseling and treatment from other professionals.
Adams, R. (2013).Virginia medical law. Richmond, VA: Lulu.Com
Baldisseri, M. R. (2007). Impaired healthcare professional. Critical care medicine, 35(2), S106-S116.
Deal with physician impairment before it’s a safety risk (2013, March 11). Amednews.com.
Eisler, P. (2014, April 17). Doctors, medical staff on drugs put patients at risk. USA TODAY.