Throughout the United States, addiction is a serious problem, affecting an estimated 8.4% of the population. Nurses may also be susceptible to addiction (also referred to as substance use disorder). Several factors related to the workplace may make nurses even more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, including job stress, physical injury, access to controlled substances, enabling the behavior by colleagues, and lack of education about addiction.
According to studies, approximately 10% of nurses are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol — a number slightly above that of the general population. This is troubling not only because of the dangers posed by addiction itself, but because the potential for harm is magnified when healthcare professionals are under the influence.
Courts across America, including here in California, have recognized that addiction is a disease. Most courts offer alternative sentences for low-level drug offenses, such as drug rehabilitation. The California Board of Registered Nursing also recognized that addiction can affect its nurses, and offers a comprehensive rehabilitation program called the Intervention Program. The Intervention Program may be available for certain nurses who may be facing disciplinary action for chemical dependency.
While the Intervention Program for nurses has certain advantages, it may or may not be the best fit for all nurses. Read on to learn more about this program from an experienced San Diego nursing license defense attorney.
The California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) is the state agency tasked with handling the various aspects relating to the licensing, education, and discipline of nurses within the state. As part of its program, the BRN offers a diversion or intervention program for nurses whose competency may be impaired by substance use disorder or mental illness.
According to BRN, the goal of the Intervention Program is to protect the public. This goal is achieved by identifying nurses with addiction issues, encouraging intervention, and providing help and hope for these nurses. In addition, the program monitors the recovery of its participants and ensures that rehabilitated nurses are returned to safe practice.
The program began in 1984. Since it was established, over 2,000 nurses have successfully completed the Intervention Program.
A nurse can be referred to the Intervention Program either through self-referral, contacting the program directly, or after being referred by the BRN after a complaint about chemical dependency. To be eligible, a nurse must:
The program is administered by MAXIMUS, INC. A nurse must call MAXIMUS, INC. directly to request admission. This can be done via their 24-hour hotline at 1-800-522-9198.
The program consists of multiple elements. To start, there will be both an initial intake assessment and an initial clinical assessment. After that, the nurse will enter into treatment, which may include inpatient or outpatient care, as well as aftercare and/or therapy.
After treatment, the nurse will be required to submit to random drug testing (typically urine, but may include blood, hair and nail samples). Attendance at the nurse support group and a 12 step program are also required.
By law, participation in the program is confidential, unless the nurse is alleged to be a threat to themselves of others. Enrollment in the Intervention Program is not mandatory. In fact, only nurses who enter the program voluntarily will be accepted. If a nurse successfully completes the Intervention Program, the Board will not take disciplinary action against their license. However, if you fail to complete the program, or if you have received a letter from the BRN about the program and choose to not enroll, any complaint that has been filed against you (and led to your referral to the Program) will proceed through the disciplinary process.
The program typically takes 3 to 5 years to complete. The RN must demonstrate a lifestyle that supports ongoing recovery and have at least twenty-four months of clean, random observed toxicology screenings. If you successfully complete the Intervention Program, then records of your participation will be destroyed.
There are certain advantages to the Intervention Program, as well as specific drawbacks as well. By design, it is a rigorous program — and it may or may not be right for you.
First and foremost, in order to enroll in the program, you must agree to temporarily put your nursing license on “inactive” status for a minimum of 30 days. While you are in the program, your license will not be suspended and any disciplinary process that may have been started will not move forward.
Additionally, the Intervention Program can be costly. While the initial assessment and clinical assessment are free, the remaining costs are borne by the participant. Substance abuse treatment can be expensive if it is not covered by insurance. Additionally, all psychiatric and medical evaluations must also be paid by the participant. While there is financial assistance available for participation in the Intervention Program, it may not be sufficient for many individuals who are currently not working.
Despite the costs, the Intervention Program can be a good solution for a nurse who has found herself/himself in a difficult situation and needs help. Although, the Intervention Program is extremely rigorous, for nurses with addiction issues it can help avoid the costs and emotions of the investigatory and disciplinary process. For many nurses, this necessary assistance needs to be balanced against the costly and time-consuming Intervention Program with their current living expenses, livelihood, and costs to defend an Accusation.
At the Law Office of Nicole Irmer, we represent nurses throughout California who are facing investigation and disciplinary action from the California Board of Registered Nursing. Our sophisticated and comprehensive approach to criminal defense and professional licensing defense has helped countless continue to provide for themselves and their families.