Drug screening is a time-tested way of checking for evidence of illegal substances, and it’s most commonly used to determine a person’s employment eligibility. However, drug screening isn’t just for people who are applying for a job. It’s often a requirement for students who will interact with patients in a healthcare environment, too.

Whether you need a drug test for a health science internship or participation in a clinical rotation or residency program, it’s important to understand what’s involved in testing and what to expect during the process. 

Why might you need drug screening? 

As a future healthcare professional, at some point, your clinical coursework and training will put you in direct contact with patients. For their safety and yours, clinical sites typically require drug screening as part of a background check for incoming students. 

Drug testing at clinical sites is also required by the Joint Commission, an accreditation body for the healthcare industry. The Joint Commission expects its member hospitals and health systems to apply the same screening standards to students and volunteers as it does to employees.

In addition to patient safety and Joint Commission requirements, there are other reasons a clinical site will require you to complete drug screening, including:

  • Preventing misuse or theft of prescription medications available in clinical settings
  • Helping clinical sites avoid lawsuits potentially arising from mistakes made by a drug-impaired student
  • Catching drug abuse early among students, so they can get assistance before it prevents them from pursuing a health science career

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How can you prepare for drug screening?

When you don’t know what’s involved, drug testing can seem daunting at first. After all, there are many myths associated with it, including the idea that eating poppyseed bagels can cause you to test positive for opiates, or drinking a lot of water can dilute drugs in your system, and so forth. However, if you focus on the facts of drug screening and understand drug screening policies at clinical sites, you’ll not only be prepared but also at ease when completing the drug screening process.

Before you begin your program, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the ins and outs of the drug screening process and any applicable testing intervals after you start your program. For example, in addition to completing drug screening before participating in rotation or residency programs, you may also need to undergo testing after you begin the program in any of the following circumstances:

  • Upon suspicion of abuse
  • After an accident or as part of a malpractice investigation
  • As part of a random testing program

You should also know the substances included in testing and the possible testing methods, which include urine, blood, hair, or saliva. There are many categories of drugs a clinical site may include in student drug screening, but the more common ones include:

  • Amphetamines
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Opiates
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines, methadone, and others

It’s important to note that although many states have legalized marijuana, it remains a commonly tested drug. Even in locations such as New York City, where marijuana testing is largely prohibited, there are exceptions for individuals working in a healthcare environment.

What if you test positive for a banned substance?

The best possible scenario after drug screening is a negative result. However, if you happen to test positive, it’s important to understand what could happen next, as well as your options for retesting.

Not all clinical sites have the same policies, so it’s important to understand the drug screening policy where you will conduct your residency or rotational program. Some of the possible scenarios after a positive result include the following:

  • Subsequent retesting: To rule out the possibility of a false-positive, a clinical site might allow you to retest.
  • Counseling: You may be offered counseling through your university.
  • Disciplinary action: If all options have been exhausted, you could face disciplinary action or have your offer to participate in clinical training programs rescinded.

What makes a great drug screening experience?

Drug screening shouldn’t be a painful process of calling around to different testing labs to inquire about testing. When you’re trying to manage a full course load and a busy schedule, the last thing you need is to get the run-around when trying to schedule and go to drug screening. 

With reliable drug screening partners, you can avoid having a stressful experience. Your college or clinical site can connect you to a screening company possessing the experience and technology to help you quickly complete your drug test, see results, and share them with authorized clinical site contacts. With access to a paperless experience and mobile tools for finding in-network testing centers nearby, you can overcome the time constraints of your schedule and easily schedule testing. 

Here are just a few of the benefits you can expect in a great drug screening experience:

  • A secure, mobile-friendly platform to help you order and pay for your background check online, so you can meet clinical site requirements without experiencing delays.
  • Mobile notifications to let you know when your results are ready.
  • The ability to select exactly who can access your test results.
  • Paperless drug screening scheduling to help you find in-network screening locations and make an appointment .

Be prepared for your drug screening experience. 

Just as taking an exam is a bit easier when you know what to expect, the same can be true of drug screening. By understanding the process for scheduling, testing, and getting your results, you will be better prepared to complete the drug screening requirements for participation in your rotation or residency program. 

In addition, with access to an easy-to-use mobile interface, you can get it all done minus the extra paper and email. Instead of feeling anxious about drug testing, you can be empowered and fully-prepared for the next stage of your clinical training.

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