Drunken Doctor: Do Medical Careers Have High Rates Of Alcoholism?

respiratory-therapistIt may seem ironic that those in the medical profession may be subject to the very addictions such as substance abuse and alcoholism that they warn us about on a daily basis. However, it is the healthcare profession that is currently wrestling with this important issue.

The idea that alcoholism has infiltrated the health care profession is not all that surprising. Given the high amount of stress involved, alcoholism and substance abuse to a certain extent is to be expected. What is more troubling, however, is identifying just who may be suffering from this type of impairment; and how they can be identified.

Just who in the Healthcare Profession are Affected?

The trouble is that there are few reliable numbers that speak to how widespread alcoholism and substance abuse is present. Of the few studies that have been completed, the numbers may range from 12% to 15% or even more. Such numbers go just above the national average when it comes to alcoholism rates, which means that overall, the job stresses, environment, pay scale and other factors play a small role in boosting these numbers.

If these numbers are true, then the news is actually fairly good considering the sheer number of heath professionals in the country. However, the lack of real data also suggests that it may be very difficult to discern just who is a functioning alcoholic with a serious problem that may put their patients in danger.

Pediatricians, Respiratory Therapists and Dialysis Technicians

These three professions are only related through the general healthcare industry, although there is some interaction depending on the specialty of the pediatrician. Judging rates of alcoholism among the three is difficult, but important as they interact with a large section of patients.

Pediatricians: This may be the most sensitive area for substance abuse and alcoholism since pediatricians treat children. Understandably, the numbers are exceptionally sketchy when it comes to just how many pediatricians are alcoholics. What can be stated however is that pediatrician do face the stresses of the workplace environment and seem to fall within the slightly higher than normal category.

Respiratory Therapists: These professionals are generally more specialized and may experience higher stress depending on their job location. However, there is no concrete evidence that they suffer from a higher rate of alcoholism than either pediatricians or dialysis technicians.

Dialysis Technicians: Although dialysis techniciansserve a vital role in the healthcare profession, their training and pay scale is certainly less than pediatricians. Generally speaking, those in lower pay positions are more vulnerable to alcoholism on a general scale. Whether this translates in the health care profession is less certain because of the few reliable studies that have been accomplished.

The proper identification of healthcare professionals with substance abuse issues or alcoholism is vital in terms of heading off potential disasters through wrong diagnosis, being unable to carry out their duties or making a mistake that could cost a patient injury or worse. Despite the lack of reliable numbers, what can be stated truthfully is that there are healthcare professionals with serious addiction issues that must be identified quickly to head off potential problems.

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