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Are ties to disciplinary process making Wisconsin nursing addiction recovery program less effective?

Health care professionals are not immune from drug addiction. In some ways, they may be even more prone to it than the average person due to easy access. Fortunately, there is help available and nurses who are committed to their own recovery can find a way to get back on track.

At present, Wisconsin is one of 41 states that have established non-disciplinary programs to help nurses deal with drug addiction. Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s program, known as the Professional Assistance Procedure (PAP) has low participation rates, making it less effective in handling the problem than it could be. It isn’t entirely clear why more nurses don’t participate in the program, but it is likely that the way the program is set up could have something to do with it.

In many states which have non-disciplinary drug addiction programs for nurses, the program is administered by an entity separate from the board of nursing. In Wisconsin, though, the same organization that supervises the board of nursing also oversees the PAP. Some nurses have reported that the close connection between the nursing board and the PAP program translates into an overly punitive approach. Naturally, addicted nurses are less likely to participate if they fear disciplinary action from the board.

According to recent numbers, Wisconsin’s program currently has 37 nurses enrolled, which is a much smaller number than many states which run such programs independently from the nursing disciplinary body. Increasing participation would presumably be difficult in general, given the stigma of drug addiction among health care providers, but it isn’t unthinkable that moving to an independent model could help.

In a future post, we’ll continue looking at this issue and how it can be helpful for addicted nurses to work with an experienced attorney when pursuing their own recovery.

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