Drug addiction – and opioid addiction in particular – has become an issue that affects people in every line of work. Nurses are certainly no exception. The immense stress, long hours and access to drugs that go along with this occupation all make nurses as well as other medical professionals susceptible to falling victim to addiction and substance abuse. There’s no question that the past few years have been particularly brutal on those in the medical professions – and nurses, in particular.
In the past, having a drug or alcohol problem could be a sure-fire way to lose your nursing license. However, as we have learned more about addiction and recognize it for the disease it is, more focus has been placed on helping medical professionals who have issues deal with them so they can keep or reinstate their licenses and safely care for patients.
The Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing has the authority to suspend or revoke a nurse’s license if they are “unable to practice professional nursing with reasonable skill and safety to patients” because of “physiological or psychological dependence upon alcohol, hallucinogenic or narcotic drugs or other drugs which tend to impair judgment or coordination.” However, help is available.
What kind of assistance does PNAP provide?
In 2009, a nonprofit group called the Pennsylvania Nurse Peer Assistance Program (PNAP) began providing help to nurses who have been referred to various disciplinary units due to drug or alcohol issues. Nurses can also refer themselves.
The program is similar to one that was already available to doctors and pharmacists. It offers a number of services, including:
- Referral to treatment programs
- Monitoring compliance with the treatment agreement
- Assistance at nursing board hearings
- Helping nurses as they return to practice
While PNAP works with the State Board of Nursing as well as the Professional Health Monitoring Program (PHMP), it’s not a government entity. It describes itself as a “peer assistance, advocacy, and monitoring program for nurses and nursing students.”
By taking advantage of the support that’s available, meeting the requirements you’ve agreed to and seeking sound legal guidance, you don’t have to let a substance abuse issue derail your career and your life.