In August, a report published by MedPage Today highlighted how the number of nurses who choose to enroll in nurse rehabilitation programs has steadily decreased in recent years. The number of participants in these alternative-discipline programs is in the single digits in some states.
Analysts find this decline in participation in such programs to be alarming. This is particularly the case in California, which — at 457,604 — has more nurses than any other state. Only 159 California nurses participated in such programs in 2017. That number declined to 109 by 2018, then rose to 115 in 2019 before going down to 112 in 2020.
This reduction in nurse’s participation in these confidential substance abuse programs for nursing has regulators stumped, especially since their enrollment in this program could be what is necessary to retain their license.
How big of an issue is substance abuse among nurses?
Research shows that around 3% of nurses have substance abuse issues. While many of them seek treatment before getting caught, the discovery of a nurse’s addiction is much more public for others.
How do these alternative programs work?
Generally, a nurse who has developed a dependency on controlled substances can confidentially enroll in these programs early on in their addiction, long before it starts to adversely impact their careers or lives. In fact, research shows that most nurses can avoid being reprimanded by the board altogether simply by participating in these programs.
Analysts point out that nurses end up facing disciplinary action from the board because they don’t take advantage of this program early on when they have an opportunity.
Why is enrollment in these diversion programs low?
Study authors determined that the blame for nurse’s low participation numbers in these programs likely has to do with the stigma attached to seeking help. Medical providers worry about coming forward and saying that they’ve developed a substance abuse program. There’s also a cost element since nurses have to foot the bill for participation in these programs themselves.
If you’re worried about losing your nursing license because you’ve developed an addiction, the best thing you can do is be proactive so that it doesn’t affect your ability to retain your license.