In the healthcare setting, workplace impairment refers to a failure to provide patient care with reasonable skill and safety because the worker is afflicted with a substance use disorder, physical illness or mental illness. A worker's impairment may be temporary, intermittent or escalating. The significant outcome of nurse impairment is increased risk or injury to the patient, to self, colleagues and the employer (ANA, 2013).

Impairment in the healthcare workplace is not a rare occurrence. The American Nurses Association estimates that our nurse colleagues are afflicted with mental illnesses and substance use disorders at about the same 10% rate as the public (Dunn, 2005). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA, 2017) reports that "More workers are injured in the healthcare and social assistance industry sector than any other."

Armed with the preceding knowledge, health care employers and employees must be vigilant for workplace impairment. Employers can protect the patient from workplace impairment by:



American Nurses Association (ANA), & International Nurses Society on Addictions (IntNSA) (2013). Addictions nursing: scope and standards of practice. Silver Spring, MD:

Dunn, D. (2005). Substance use among nurses—Defining the issue. AORN, 82(4), 573-596

The U.S. Dept. of Labor. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Healthcare. Accessed 8/15/2017.