Some professional fields require people to take drug tests to ensure they are not impaired while on the job. Some nursing students, depending on their degree path at Ohio University, take a drug test every year and will continue to do so if they work in clinics or hospitals.
It is becoming more common for college students to use drugs such as marijuana and alcohol. In 2018, according to the American Addiction Centers, 43% of college students used marijuana, meaning researchers saw a 7% increase in usage over the previous five years. In the past month, 53% of full-time students aged between 18 to 22 drank alcohol.
According to the School of Nursing at OU’s undergraduate handbook, “many clinical facilities now require the School of Nursing to submit documentation of negative drug screens prior to students performing clinicals in their facility. Students assigned to these clinical sites will be required to have a drug screen performed at their expense anytime that it is required for clinical.”
Students on track to receive their Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN, who plan to eventually become registered nurses, or RNs, are required to take drug tests annually at OU, Char Miller, the executive director of OU’s School of Nursing, said.
“I would say in most nursing care settings, you will be required to drug test prior to employment,” Miller said. “Then you’re subject to drug testing at any point that your employer might ask you to do so.”
There are typically different protocols in place based on who nurses work for and when they have to drug test, Miller also said.
The School of Nursing has a procedure in place in case a faculty member observes “a student participating in any classroom, laboratory, or clinical activity exhibiting signs of chemical impairment,” according to the undergraduate handbook. At this point, the faculty member is able to request that the student take a drug test and for the student to explain their behavior.
It is not very often that a nursing student doesn’t pass their drug test, Miller said, but when they do not pass, there are steps in place to move forward.
“Fortunately, we don’t have that happen very often,” said Miller. “When it has happened, I mean, we do have to address it. That also gives us, by doing it in the spring before they leave, it gives us another opportunity.”
Miller gave the example of a student who tests positive for some drug or alcohol on the test being offered counseling, a discussion or a referral for treatment if needed.
“Also, it is an opportunity for them if there was an explanation,” Miller said. “It’s an opportunity that they are able to repeat the drug screen before the clinical begins and have an opportunity to have a clean drug screen.”
Madelyn Cramp, a sophomore studying nursing, said it’s important, especially for nurses, to avoid being impaired while taking care of someone. This is one of the main reasons why the school requires an annual drug test.
“You’re going in and you’re taking care of someone and you’re touching real people,” Cramp said. “You’re … between (patients) and whatever has to happen so you don’t want to be impaired.”
As a pre-nursing student at OU, Cramp did not have to take a drug test. At the end of her first year after getting admitted into the program, Cramp has to participate in a drug screening. Cramp also said one of her friends was prescribed a medication that is flagged by the test and needed a doctor’s note to prove the drug was not for recreational use.
The School of Nursing at OU has nursing students take their drug tests at Holzer Uptown Clinic, located at 5 N. Court St. Students are required to pay for their own tests, which cost $54.
Tabitha Ens, a junior studying nursing, said she and other students are given time slots to fill and each graduating class has a specific week they can sign up for. Ens has to take her test sometime over finals week.
The drug tests nursing students are required to take once a year do not reflect behaviors of the entire year, but they prepare these students to become nurses who are committed to the safety of their patients.
“As important as it is, it’s even more important when we’re literally at work,” Ens said. “Obviously (someone) can pass a drug test and then still show up to work impaired. So I think it’s super important to drug test while you’re at work. This is just kind of easing into drug tests.”