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Challenges in Nursing Practice: Nurses’ Perceptions in Caring for Hospitalized Medical-Surgical Patients With Substance Abuse/Dependence

Neville, Kathleen PhD, RN; Roan, Nora DNP, RN, APN

Journal of Nursing Administration: June 2014 - Volume 44 - Issue 6 - p 339–346
doi: 10.1097/NNA.0000000000000079

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to investigate nurses’ perceptions of caring for hospitalized medical-surgical patients with comorbid conditions of substance abuse/dependence.

BACKGROUND: Critical to this issue of quality patient care is the rising incidence of comorbid drug and alcohol abuse among hospitalized patients. Little research exists on the perceptions of nurses providing care to substance abuse/dependent medical-surgical hospitalized patients. There exists the need to further explore nurses’ perceptions regarding caring for this challenging population.

METHODS: Using a qualitative inductive approach, a convenience sample of 24 nurses completed research questions regarding their perceptions of caring for hospitalized patients with substance abuse/dependence.

RESULTS: Data analysis revealed ethical duty to care, negative perceptions toward patients with substance abuse/dependence, need for further education, sympathy, and issues with pain management. Providing quality nursing care for the hospitalized medical-surgical patient with concomitant alcohol and/or drug dependence is challenging for nursing. Nurses need additional education and professional support in caring for these individuals.

Author Affiliations: Professor (Dr Neville), School of Nursing, Kean University, Union; and Advanced Practice Nurse (Dr Roan), Somerset Medical Center, Somerville, New Jersey.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Correspondence: Dr Neville, School of Nursing, Kean University, 1000 Morris Ave, Union, NJ 07083 (

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins