When a Co-Worker is Intoxicated

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Have you ever suspected that a co-worker is intoxicated? Has a co-worker boasted to you that they left the bar just a few hours before their shift started? The consequences of an intoxicated employee can be deadly to the person, your patients, and to you.

This is what I have done when I suspect a co-worker is intoxicated or under the influence and we are not providing patient care.

1. Immediately contact my supervisor by phone or face-to-face report. Without delay since we might be paged to a call at any moment.

2. After contacting my supervisor for our unit to be out-of-service until I ask the supervisor for advice on what, if anything, I should say to my co-worker.

3. Fill out documentation provided by supervisor/HR department about the incident. Remember to document behaviors you observed and statements your co-worker made.

Fortunately,  I have not been in a situation where we were traveling to a call, caring for a patient, or transporting a patient with an intoxicated co-worker. Have you? I would like to think that would be a very rare situation that I will never encounter. If I was in this situation this is what I would do.

1. Immediately relieve the co-worker of any patient assessment or care duties. If out of the vehicle, I would ask the co-worker to return to vehicle to wait for me.

2. Request assistance from other emergency responders on-scene to continue to assist with patient care.

3. Contact a field supervisor and/or my agency dispatch center as soon as practically possible.

4. Consider my options for transporting the patient. At this point we would not have a complete crew. I would request advice from the supervisor for guidance on initiating transport with a police or firefighter driver and a single paramedic on board or waiting for another transport unit.

What would you do? Talking and thinking through what-if situations like this will help prepare you for incidents that we hope are unrealistic, but tragically do happen.