The Impaired Employee
Beverly, a 35-year-old, full-time nurse on the day shift, has been with your facility for 10 years. There are rumors that she comes to work under the influence of alcohol. Staff report the smell of alcohol on her breath, unexcused absences from the unit, and an increase in medication errors. Although the unit supervisor suspected that Beverly was chemically impaired, she was unable to observe directly any of these behaviors. After arriving at work last week, the supervisor walked into the nurses’ lounge and observed Beverly covertly drinking from a dark-colored flask in her locker. She immediately confronted Beverly and asked her if she was drinking alcohol while on duty. Beverly tearfully admitted that she was drinking alcohol but stated this was an isolated incident and begged her to forget it. She promised never to consume alcohol at work again. In an effort to reduce the emotionalism of the event and to give herself time to think, the supervisor sent Beverly home and scheduled a conference with her for later in the day. At this conference, Beverly was defensive and stated, “I do not have a drinking problem, and you are overreacting.” The supervisor shared data that she had gathered supporting her impression that Beverly was chemically impaired. Beverly offered no explanation for these behaviors. The plan for Beverly was a referral to the State Board of Nursing Diversion Program and a requirement that she complete the program as they direct her. Beverly again became very tearful and begged the supervisor to reconsider. She stated that she was the sole provider for her four small children and that her frequent sick days had taken up all available vacation and sick pay. The supervisor stated that she believed her decision was appropriate and again encouraged Beverly to seek guidance for her drinking. Four days later, the supervisor read in the newspaper that Beverly committed suicide the day after this meeting.
ASSIGNMENT: Evaluate the problem solving of the supervisor. Would your actions have differed if you were the manager? Are there conflicting legal and ethical obligations? To whom does the manager have the greatest obligation—patients, subordinates, or the organization? Could the outcome have been prevented? Does this outcome reflect on the quality of the problem solving?