Recognizing Impairment in the Workplace

Work-related stressors may result in emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and eventual burnout. Healthcare workers are at high risk for burnout, due to a variety of factors. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is a prime example of a situation that raises the threat of provider burnout. Staffing shortages, equipment shortages, patient volume, acuity surges and more can all lead to one’s mental, physical, and spiritual exhaustion. The result of this ongoing work-related stress creates another set of unfavorable consequences.

Healthcare workers, under constant stressors, may develop unhealthy personal coping mechanisms, including substance abuse (illegal drugs, abuse of prescription drugs, alcohol abuse), and mental health issues (anxiety and depression). Additionally, they may exhibit on-duty work behaviors that impair quality care, and potentially create medical errors that could result in charges of negligence and malpractice. Impairment can place everyone in the workplace at risk for injury. Patients trust healthcare professionals to provide safe and effective care. Therefore, it is in everyone’s best interest to quickly identify the impaired healthcare worker and align them with professional services that promote their recovery and safe return to the workplace.

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Upon completion of this course, participants will be able to:

  1. Discuss the definition of impairment and its scope of impact on the healthcare setting.
  2. Verbalize employer initiatives to promote safety and provide assistance.
  3. Discuss risk factors for substance abuse in healthcare professionals.
  4. Identify signs of impairment in the workplace setting.
  5. Outline essential steps in reporting suspected healthcare professional impairment.
  6. Review types of treatment programs available for impaired healthcare professionals. 
  7. Identify additional resources for substance abuse treatment.


Chapter 1: Definition of Impairment and Scope of Impact

Chapter 2: Employer Initiatives to Promote Safety and Provide Assistance

Chapter 3: Risk Factors for Substance Abuse in Healthcare Professionals

Chapter 4: General Risk Factors for Substance Abuse Disorders

Chapter 5: Signs of Impairment in the Workplace Setting

Chapter 6: Reporting

Chapter 7: Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)

Chapter 8: Additional Resources

Chapter 9: Case Study

Chapter 10: References

Price: $18.00

Contact Hours: 1.5

Course Author

Maureen Sullivan-Tevault

Maureen graduated nursing school in 1981 and has spent her years in the Emergency and Trauma field, including nursing positions as the Emergency Department Manager, Director of Staff Education, Trauma Coordinator, Cardiology Nurse Navigator, and Stroke Program Manager.

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