Nursing students practicing in healthcare settings may increase risks to consumers, if impaired by drugs and/or alcohol, and are incapable of practicing safely. Several agencies implemented educational/professional policies, designed to protect healthcare consumers from risks. Policies addressing impaired nursing students vary among these agencies, and no nationally implemented policy exists for the treatment of impaired nursing student practice in the United States.
This scoping study synthesizes substance abuse
policy among nursing students, guided by the research question: What professional and state policies exist to address substance abuse
among U.S. nursing students? The broader term, substance abuse
, was used because alcohol-specific policies were not identified.
Evidence was drawn from several policy documents identified through electronic sources that include national nursing organizations (NNOs) and nurse practice acts (NPAs) and rules. A comparative analysis was conducted on the identified policies to determine similarities and differences at the national and state levels and between national and state levels.
Four NNO policies, 50 U.S. states, District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories’ NPAs were selected for review based on selection criteria. Six areas were identified in NNO policies, and four were identified in NPAs that addressed chemically impaired nursing students.
This review of current policy provided evidence that identifies and describes areas of concern. Impaired nursing practice, which includes nursing students, remains a major issue, complicated by the inconsistencies noted particularly within the reviewed NPAs. Knowledge gained from this review will be used to guide future research and subsequent state policy development.