Graduation Date


Document Type

Senior Thesis


Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Primary Major


Primary Minor

General Psychology

Second Minor


Program Director

Andrea Boyle, PhD, FNAP

Thesis Advisor

Patricia Harris, PhD, RN


Background: The incidence of substance use among nurses has been a persistent issue for decades. The effects associated with substance misuse depend on what is used, the amount, how often, and how they are taken. Regardless of the substance used, any nurse who enters the workplace using substances puts the lives of others at risk. Due to the widespread effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a risk that the number of nurses resorting to the use of substances may have increased. Therefore, an investigation into drug use among nurses during the pandemic is particularly important.

Objective: To explore the incidence of substance use among nurses prior to the pandemic versus today, to examine obstacles nurses face in seeking help, and to compare the effectiveness of different rehabilitative programs in reducing the incidence of substance use among registered nurses.

Methods: A review of the research literature has been performed and a proposal for further research is proposed.

Findings: Factors that contribute to nurses resorting to substance use include stress, trauma, and financial issues. Disciplinary measures were found to be unsupportive for nurses dealing with substance use issues and ineffective in minimizing patient safety risks. Many nurses are afraid to get help for their substance use and are too embarrassed to discuss their problem with anyone. During the pandemic, alcohol was the most prevalent substance used by nurses, however, marijuana and tobacco were other drugs used as well. Those who spent approximately five years in a rehabilitation program were the least likely to relapse in comparison to others.

Proposal: A mixed methods study will quantify the number of nurses in California resorting to substance use during the pandemic, identify risk factors for substance use by nurses, and explore how nurses have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Available for download on Friday, May 12, 2023