Responding to Unexpected Urine Drug Test Results: A Phenomenological Approach


  • Jolene Schulz Bellin College
  • Dr. Casey Rentmeester Bellin College



As a response to the opioid epidemic in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain in 2016. This document served as a means to reduce risks and address harms of opioid use by recommending that clinicians conduct periodic urine drug testing for patients on chronic opioid therapy. As an unintended result of this recommendation, providers began using unexpected urine drug test results as a reason to dismiss patients from practice, both out of concern for their patients’ wellbeing as well as their own legal risks. Using Husserl’s and Heidegger’s phenomenology, we argue that this science-based, black-and-white practice does not heed the patient as a whole person. Instead, we recommend a more contextual, patient-centered approach that can help us to better understand and manage patient needs in such contexts.

Keywords: Martin Heidegger, Edmund Husserl, Opioid Epidemic, Medical Ethics, Chronic Pain

Author Biographies

Jolene Schulz, Bellin College

Jolene Schulz, MSN is an instructor of nursing at Bellin College and doctor of nursing practice student. She maintains practice as a nurse practitioner with five years of experience in pain management. 

Dr. Casey Rentmeester, Bellin College

Dr. Casey Rentmeester is an Associate Professor of Philosophy in Bellin College’s general education department.