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Nurses, drug addiction and assistance programs

On Behalf of | May 10, 2016 | Health Law |

Substance addiction strikes a great many people. It is estimated that one in 10 individuals grapples with substance abuse.

Health care professionals, like nurses, are not immune to such addiction. The incidence rates of substance abuse among such professionals are believed to be similar to the rates among the general population. Substance addiction in a health care professional, in addition to having the potential to tear the professional’s life apart, also could present patient safety dangers.

Many states, including Wisconsin, have set up self-reporting and assistance programs for nurses aimed at encouraging nurses battling addiction to get the help they need and protecting patients. Wisconsin’s program is called the Professional Assistance Procedure.

In some states, the nurse substance abuse assistance program is run by a government body that also has connections to disciplinary matters, while in others, the program is run independently. Wisconsin’s program is currently of the first model.

One of the concerns some raise when it comes to programs of the government-run model, like Wisconsin’s, are concerns that having such a model can create fears among nurses that self-reporting to the program could have major disciplinary consequences for them, and that this could discourage nurses who are struggling with addiction from going to the program for help.

One of the many ways addiction could have serious impacts on a nurse is through endangering their professional standing. Among the disciplinary actions a nurse could potentially face in connection to allegations of substance abuse is a loss of their license.

Wisconsin’s nurse substance abuse program has pretty low participation levels; nurse enrollment in the program is currently at 37 nurses.

Do you think Wisconsin should consider switching to the independent model when it comes to its nurse substance abuse program? What do you think are the biggest impediments here in Wisconsin to nurses who are struggling with substance abuse getting the help they need?

Experienced health law attorneys understand how delicate and high-stakes of a situation it is when a nurse or other health care professional has allegations of substance abuse leveled against them. Such lawyers can provide nurses facing such allegations with compassionate guidance and support and work to help protect their career and future.

Source:, “Wisconsin nurses slow to self-report drug abuse,” Bryna Godar, April 18, 2016

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