Looking for Survivors

A person’s death, depending on the circumstances, can send shock waves reverberating through families, friends, co-workers and even complete strangers. So it was with the death of AANA past-president Jan Stewart, CRNA, ARNP, due to an accidental drug overdose in 2002.

Jan’s tiny profile hid a powerhouse personality; she was friendly, outgoing, assertive, confident, and befriended nearly everyone she met. It was not apparent to most, if any, that she would be a likely candidate to die from a self-administered shot of sufentanil. Jan Stewart is but one of any number of CRNAs or other healthcare workers who die from their addictions each year.

 If an addict is lucky, they are discovered, get treatment and are able to live, to survive. If not, they are found in the obituaries in Any Newspaper USA. As Anita Bertrand said in her 2014 Jan Stewart Memorial Wellness Lecture speech, “We cannot fix death.”

To find potential survivors who are struggling with addiction, it’s important to know the signs and behaviors of an impaired person. Do you know what to look for? One or more of the following patterns of behavior and consequences may indicate substance abuse or chemical dependency in an anesthesia professional:
  • Comes to work during scheduled time off and loiters around departmental drug supply
  • Isolated and withdrawn from peers
  • Frequent bathroom breaks or disappears on duty
  • Desire to take extra call
  • Increased or unexplained tardiness or absenteeism
  • Gradual decline in work performance
  • Consistently signs out more narcotics than peers
  • Patterns of inappropriate drug choices and dosages
  • Increased labile mood with frequent, unexplained anger and overreaction to criticism
  • Increased difficulty with authority
    Forgetful, unpredictable, confused, and lacks concentration
  • Frequent illnesses or physical complaints
  • Dishonesty, often over trivial or unimportant matters
  • Elaborate excuses
  • Tremors or "Monday morning shakes"
  • Evidence of alcohol or drug use, such as odor of alcohol on breath, heavy perfume or mouthwash, wearing long sleeves
  • Intoxicated at social functions
  • Discovered comatose or dead

The “How to Save a Life - Substance Use Disorder (SUD) in the Workplace” session on Monday, Aug. 31, 2-4 p.m. in Room 355 at the Salt Palace Convention Center will include information on the neurobiology of addiction, signs and behaviors, and what to do in the workplace when impairment is suspected.

If you or someone you know fits any of these parameters, check out Getting Help or call the Helpline at (800) 654-5167. Learn more: http://www.aana.com/signsandbehaviors