Increased Diversion Risk During a Pandemic

The focus this last year in hospitals has been getting through the COVID crisis and that meant caring for the patients while keeping the staff safe. Finding ways to provide the highest level of care while minimizing the risk to those caring for them. In many cases, this meant changing the workflow to minimize exposure. It may have meant bringing in temporary staff to support the higher census or fill in for staff who were themselves out sick. When it came to diversion monitoring, I would venture to guess that many hospitals that already had a fairly solid diversion monitoring program in place may have found themselves unable to devote the same resources to detection. For those facilities without a solid program, I can only hope some thought was given to the controlled substance chain of custody when new processes were implemented and new staff were brought on board. Minimizing risk and optimizing chain of custody are things that are within our control if we devote the time and resources to planning and implementation.

What about the things we can’t control? The emotions many are feeling during this time can be overwhelming. Our healthcare workers are not isolated in the traditional sense because they are still working, but they may be isolated from their family in order to protect them. They may have a higher level of anxiety if they feel at risk for infection day in and day out. The workload for many has increased, and for some the outcomes they may be seeing are a reminder that life can be taken without much warning. These types of stressors can push people toward alcohol or drugs and these are not risks we can minimize in the more traditional gap analysis way. Be mindful of the stressors of your staff. Check in with them. Don’t lose sight of the need to monitor for diversion as there are more reasons than ever to be vigilant.

Terri Vidals
Terri Vidals

Terri has been a pharmacist for over 30 years and is a drug diversion mitigation and monitoring subject matter expert. Her years of experience in various roles within hospital pharmacy have given her real-world insight into risk, compliance, and regulatory requirements, as well as best practices for medication and patient safety.

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