Options for Pennsylvania nurses dealing with addiction

Those who have struggled with substance abuse have first-hand knowledge of just how frightening such an experience can be. In fact, those battling alcohol or drug addiction have to fight each and every day to get control of their personal lives.

However, if you happen to be a nurse in Pennsylvania, not only can addiction affect your personal life but your professional life as well. Indeed, nurses dealing with addiction problems may quickly find themselves in danger of losing their licenses to practice nursing in Pennsylvania ― thus putting their careers and livelihood in jeopardy.

Essentially, this risk stems from a state law that expressly permits the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing to revoke a nurse's license when it finds the nurse is no longer able to "practice professional nursing with reasonable skill and safety to patients by reason of […] physiological or psychological dependence upon alcohol […] or other drugs."

Fortunately, however, attitudes regarding substance abuse have slowly evolved over the years. For example, in today's world, substance abuse is commonly recognized as a disease ― a disease that requires treatment, not punishment. With that in mind, the Pennsylvania Department of State and the Nursing Board have provided several services aimed at supporting nurses that have fallen victim to addiction.

What is the Pennsylvania Nurse Peer Assistance Program?

Essentially, under Pennsylvania law, when a nurse is struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, the State Board of Nursing has the authority to defer disciplinary action against the nurse so long as he or she meets three criteria:

  • The nurse agrees to take part in an approved treatment program
  • The nurse "satisfactorily" progresses in the program
  • The nurse signs an agreement with the Board.

Often times, this process allowed nurses to protect their licenses.

While the Nursing Board previously relied solely upon the state's Professional Health Recovery Program (PHMP) to meet their goals, they now are able to utilize the peer assistance services provided by PNAP, otherwise known as the Pennsylvania Nurse Peer Assistance Program. Specifically, PNAP is a voluntary program in which nurses are monitored for prohibited alcohol or drug use. The program is both confidential and supportive. Under the program's parameters, the PNAP and PHMP now coordinate their efforts to help impaired nurses get back on their feet and stay licensed.

Do I need to talk to an attorney?

While the creation of PNAP is certainly a good step towards protecting the livelihoods of nurses dealing with substance abuse, it is important to still seek the guidance of an attorney whenever a nursing license is at risk. After all, consulting with an attorney is the only way to guarantee that you have a true advocate on your side. A knowledgeable attorney can help explain your options, including whether participation in state-sponsored programs are in your best interests.