Identifying Medical–Surgical Nursing Staff Perceptions of the Drug-Abusing Patient

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Nurses report a negative, stereotypical, and moralistic view of substance-abusing patients. Unaddressed bias may impede delivery of quality care. There is limited research of the needs specific to medical–surgical nursing staff interacting with substance-abusing patients. Nursing therapeutic commitment refers to the degree the nurse feels prepared with an adequate knowledge base, professional support, and personal ownership of a patient condition. Low therapeutic commitment correlates with job dissatisfaction. The Drug and Drug Problems Perceptions Questionnaire assesses healthcare provider attitude and therapeutic commitment to patients using or abusing medication or illicit substances. This therapeutic commitment survey serves as a staff needs assessment for a targeted educational innovation. The results show that the medical and surgical nursing staff has a constructive attitude and a moderately high degree of therapeutic commitment to the drug-abusing patient population, similar to more specialized multidisciplinary, mental healthcare workers. This study showed that medical–surgical nurses feel professionally responsible and clinically supported with patients with primary or comorbid drug abuse. Consistent with established results, focused and ongoing education on the risk factors, outcomes, and physical and psychological effects of illicit substances is necessary to improve therapeutic commitment to drug-dependent patients.

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