September 2016 – I protect our patients– I also protect our diverters from themselves–a personal story from a diversion specialist
“I have a passion for my job…” I do not always get the same response from people whenever I say that. Some think that I cause distress in other people’s lives. Others think of me as the first line of defense in protecting our patients. As a diversion specialist for Regions hospital, I do not just contribute to protecting our patients but also to protecting diverters from themselves. Like a safe and healing hospital environment, patient safety is a top priority. We are all aware that prescription drug abuse is a huge problem in America and anyone working in a healthcare facility can divert if controlled substances are available or left unsecure. Even though there aren’t any exact statistics, it’s estimated that 12 to 16 percent of healthcare professionals will abuse prescription drugs at some point in their career. I have passion for my job not just because new laws and regulations keep my job fresh but also because a well-developed drug diversion prevention program significantly reduces the likelihood of fraud and abuse.
We often read and hear about nurses, physicians, and pharmacists getting caught diverting drugs in health care facilities. Some of us might even know someone who has had drug addiction problems, I certainly do. The only difference about my story is that it is a success story. Healthcare workers have many different reasons to start diverting. My husband, who is a pharmacist, started diverting benzodiazepines while in pharmacy school to help with stress from school and his mother’s cancer. After jail and community service, he spent a couple of years getting back into a pharmacy program. He was very fortunate that the University of Minnesota was willing to give him a second chance. Part of his conditional acceptance to the U of M was his enrollment in the Health Professional Services Program. He was enrolled in HPSP for 4 years. During that time, he had to submit random drug screens 3 times a month and had to attend at least one alcoholic’s anonymous, narcotics anonymous, or pharmacy recovery network meeting per week. Eventually, he was able to graduate from the U of M and obtain a pharmacist license in the state of Minnesota. However, his mother passed away before he finished. I am thankful because he got caught and was able to get his life back on track. I have passion for my job and not just because we need to protect our patients. I also like to think that I am helping drug abusers to realize that they have a problem and to change their life.
Pharmacy Quality Analyst/Diversion Specialist
Region Hospital, HealthPartners
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