Employee and Client Substance Abuse

By VHMA Admin posted 10-26-2019 08:04


Dealing with substance abuse can be particularly difficult for small businesses because they don’t have the expertise or resources to devote to the topic. Substance abuse can create serious problems in a veterinary workplace including accidents, errors in patient care and legal liability.

How big of an issue is this in veterinary medicine? When asked: “Have you ever discovered an employee who exhibited behavior consistent with suspected substance abuse while on the job?” Sixty eight percent of respondents said yes. Fortunately, 90% of the practices responding to the survey said their employee manual addresses how to deal with an employee found on the job to be impaired due to suspected substance abuse.

While an employee’s behavior may make you suspicious of substance abuse, drug testing is necessary to confirm it. Drug testing can also be used on a pre-employment basis. While 2/3 of the responding practices have a policy in place regarding for-cause testing, less than 1/2 have a pre-employment or random testing policy. These policies are very important in an industry comprised mostly of small businesses and with easy access to drugs.

When asks: “Does your practice’s employee benefit package offer resources that would address substance abuse?” Just over 50% of the practices have such resources; typically, this would be an EAP (employee assistance plan).

Of course, employees aren’t the only ones who may have substance abuse problems veterinary practices confront. Almost 90% of responding managers have experienced an impaired client due to suspected substance abuse; this is greater than the % of practices who have had to handle possibly impaired employees. Unfortunately, most practices (over 70%) do not have a policy in place to manage visiting clients who are suspected under the influence.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) is an excellent resource for developing the policies and procedures necessary to create and keep a drug-free workplace. Information and a toolkit to help with establishing your drug-free workplace are available at the SAMHSA website: www.samhsa.gov/workplace. This website also includes information on federal and state laws related to this topic and tips for avoiding legal problems in this area.

For more survey details view the VHMA October 2019 Insiders’ Insight Report here.