Drugs in the Workplace: Key Considerations for HR
With the healthcare industry and its regulators focusing on quality of care and ensuring patient safety, maintaining a drug-free workplace can help support these objectives. For healthcare employers, employment drug testing programs have a unique meaning because of the safety-sensitive nature of the environment. In this article, I discuss important considerations as you review your facility’s drug screening policies.
The Bad and the Ugly: The Negative Impact of Drug-Impairment
According to a 2013 research article published in JAMA by Dr. Julius Cuong Pham et al., “alcohol, narcotic, and sedative addiction is as common among physicians as the general population.” Even physicians are susceptible to substance abuse, leaving patients at risk. When you consider that an estimated 210,000 to 400,000 patient deaths are preventable each year, addressing the issue of drug-impairment as a healthcare organization is critical for improving quality of care.
Unfortunately, patient safety isn’t the only thing threatened when it comes to drug-impairment. In a recent article published by SHRM, former drug czar and retired U.S. Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey states, “the issue of drugs in the workplace is an understated crisis that results in $200 billion in lost productivity annually.” That’s certainly not a number to be taken lightly, especially if employee productivity is at stake. And if reducing employee turnover forms part of your HR objectives, substance abuse can also increase this number. These are just a few reasons why employers, including healthcare organizations, might consider establishing a drug-free workplace.
Implementing an Employee Drug Testing Program
If you are in the early stages of planning your employee drug testing, our Drug Screening product manager Cristina Loayza has put together a helpful article with important considerations before implementing your program. It is always a good practice to consult with legal counsel to ensure that you have all of your bases covered, especially if it is the first time your organization implements a drug testing program or policy. While healthcare organizations can perform employee drug testing in-house, there are benefits to utilizing a third-party administrator such as PreCheck. By outsourcing employee drug testing, you can eliminate conflict of interest issues while respecting employee privacy.
Putting Patient Safety First: Don’t Forget Physicians and Nurses
When you implement your drug testing program, don’t forget to include your medical staff services office in the process. In light of research suggesting that physicians and nurses are susceptible to drug and substance abuse, it’s also important to include physicians, which are traditionally not employed by hospitals but rather credentialed and appointed by a medical staff office. In an article published in Medscape last summer, Dr. Arthur L. Caplan from the New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center, expressed his support for routine drug screening of doctors and nurses: “I would support it because when you have physicians and nurses in circumstances where drugs are easily obtained and easy to abuse, you probably need to do a certain amount of spot checking.”