Drug Test
The question of whether or not drug-testing among doctors and nurses is ethical has been a hot topic for years. Healthcare professionals have a sacred duty to protect their patients and the public. By not testing such professionals for drugs, the healthcare industry could be creating a situation that may put people in danger.

Medical professionals, on the other hand, are of the opinion that drug-testing takes away their rights. The public is of the view that they have the right to be fully protected, and that includes protection from drug-using healthcare professionals.

Why Healthcare Professionals Should Undergo Random Drug-Testing?

Drug use is common throughout the world, and hospitals and healthcare centers are no exception. The inappropriate use of drugs, in this case, can seriously impact the safety and security of patients, who themselves may be battling drug use. That apart, drug use tends to reduce the user's ability of making logical judgments, which will further compromise treatment protocols and interactions with the public.

Persistent drug use can make the healthcare professional susceptible to minor illnesses, increasing sickness absence rates and putting patient's health at risk. There's also the risk of increase in the frequency of negligence or malpractice claims. That apart, there is a strong likelihood of on-site drug theft and abuse as well because healthcare workers have access to powerful prescription drugs. Ignoring drug use can appear as condoning drug use at the workplace, so it is imperative that healthcare professionals be regularly tested for drug use.

The Difficulty in Random Drug-Testing Healthcare Professionals

Healthcare professionals are trained and experienced medics who know how to hide their addiction. For example, anesthesiologists are known to have high incidences of addiction, given that they are exposed to highly-addictive medications. They can easily adulterate their urine output, which can alter the results of a random urine drug test, if the test isn't conducted under well-monitored conditions.

The next high incidence of drug use is among nurses, who have very stressful jobs. They are required to care for patients, work with temperamental doctors, and maintain the status quo with the public without losing their cool. Random drug-testing is not done as a rule for nurses. However, if a nurse's job performance is seen to be impaired, or if there's any suspicion or evidence of drug use, the hospital can insist on a drug test. Random drug tests, informed or not, are not welcomed by healthcare professionals, who know that their reputations are at risk. Plus, if the word leaks out, their patients will lose confidence in their care, which puts their entire careers at risk.

Setting up Workplace Policies for Random Drug-Testing

Although drug screening prior employment is regulated in the healthcare industry, not all governments insist on it as a matter of law. Then again, screening candidates prior to employment may not be possible everywhere given the complexity of test administration and concerns over the candidate's legal rights. Plus, competing for the best healthcare talent does not leave time for health care centers to bother with tests and wait for the results to come in.

If that were not enough, several healthcare centers are uncomfortable performing a urine drug test. One of the biggest pre-requisites of performing a drug test is to do it under strictly monitored conditions. However, given that the risks of employing a drug user are substantial, healthcare organizations around the world are evaluating their drug-testing programs and creating new policies for them.

Before setting up drug-testing policies, it is necessary to adopt a simple 'risk assessment' approach. The risk assessment must cover potential workplace hazards that can be caused by the inappropriate use of drugs. This should be followed by a list of potential consequences to patients and the healthcare working environment. Healthcare administrators must consider the following objectives when setting up drug-testing workplace policies:

  • Prevent misappropriation of drugs from the healthcare center
  • Deter inappropriate use of drugs
  • Provide positive intervention
  • Do testing according to legislative, regulatory and contractual requirements
  • Ensure patient safety and security
  • Ensure safety of hospital's reputation and viability

The following parameters must be observed when drafting workplace policies:

  • Policies must be drafted after consulting employee representatives
  • Policies must be clearly stated, fully explained and understood by all
  • Policies must be applied reasonably and consistently
  • Challenges to policy validity must be considered within employee's legislative and regulatory rights

The bottom line is, drug screening should be done with respect, with prior intimation, and in total privacy, without judgment. In addition, the healthcare worker should be provided with options for suitable treatment.

Best Practices for Drug-Testing Healthcare Professionals

Adherence to a comprehensive drug- and- alcohol-testing policy should be the entry point of employment. Healthcare centers can update their drug-screening programs and policies if they work with a trusted screening provider such as TestCountry. Such expert providers will not only conduct the drug-screening professionally, they will also comply with state and federal laws pertaining to medical marijuana, discrimination and privacy.

Employers should be able to insist on a hair-strand test if the employee is unable to complete a urine test within 48 hours. Hair strands tend to retain substances for up to 90 days. Plus, workers cannot adulterate the test results.

Employers should consider what sort of medications can be accessed by different levels of workers and tailor their drug-screening program accordingly.


Should random drug and alcohol testing for healthcare workers become mandatory around the world? Or is that even a question anymore? Healthcare employees have the right to see drug screening as an invasion of privacy, but a great deal depends on their performance and behavior under the influence of drugs. Given the criticality of their duties, it would not be a bad idea to make random drug-testing mandatory in all healthcare centers, clinics and laboratories across the world as long this is done in a respectable and legally-sound manner.

(Image Credit)

Author's Bio: 

Nicole Kolly is a digital content manager at TestCountry. She is involved in drug addiction support groups for recovering addicts and their families. She is passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and helping others do so as well. When she isn't working she enjoys hiking, reading and cooking for friends and family.