The Texas Peer Assistance Program For Nurses (TPAPN)

If you are a nurse and have been accused of substance abuse or having a mental health issue or impairment and a referral has been made to TPAPN, you should know that you will be facing a lot of questions that could potentially affect your nursing license and your career. The fact is that many nurses get accused of having a substance abuse problem when they do not actually have one. Nurses often get scared and feel that they have no option but to sign up for TPAPN but this is not true. Just remember that if you admit to having a drug/substance abuse problem just to go along because it seems “easier” than fighting the system, it will be very difficult to go back later and argue that you did not have a problem. Nurses can generally accept a referral to participate in the Texas Peer Assistance Program for Nurses (TPAPN) and if they do not accept the referral, they face being reported to the Texas Board of Nursing.

If you are a nurse facing allegation of substance abuse or mental disorders and need help deciding what your options are contact Eyler Law Office at 214-540-7750 or email us.

TPAPN: THE PROGRAM

TPAPN is a non-profit program and a project of the Texas Nurses Association (TNA); an approved peer assistance program that operates under the Health & Safety Code, Chapter 467. This program is designed to help an impaired professional whose ability to perform a professional service is impaired by chemical dependency on drugs or alcohol or by mental illness. TPAPN maintains confidentiality consistent with State and Federal laws.

TPAPN is a voluntary, confidential program that consists of total abstinence monitored by compliance with treatment recommendations, specific return-to-work restrictions, self-help meetings, and random drug tests. It is available to nurses with substance abuse or dependency, and those who have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders, major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and schizoaffective disorder. TPAPN serves as an alternative to a nurse being reported to the Texas Board of Nursing.

TPAPN is available to Licensed Vocational Nurses, Registered Nurses, and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) of Texas having one or more diagnosis to substance abuse, substance dependency, anxiety disorders, major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.

TPAPN’s purpose is to offer opportunities for recovery from chemical dependency or mental illness and integrate nurses back into the nursing profession. This serves to protect the public and to promote professional accountability.

A nurse may self-report to TPAPN or may be referred by an employer. Every nurse referred to TPAPN has the right not to participate and withdraw from the program at any time. It is completely voluntary. Participants in TPAPN work directly with an assigned case manager who possesses educational expertise and clinical expertise in chemical dependency and psychiatric nursing.

TPAPN has recently extended the length of required participation in the program from two years to three years for licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) and registered nurses (RNs) and from three years to five years for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). This change was made in light of research indicating that the longer-term monitoring results in positive behavioral changes for recovery, but it means a longer duration of consequences. In other words, it means a longer period of reporting, paying for the costs of treatment and drug screenings.

If you are a nurse facing allegation of substance abuse or mental disorders and need help deciding what your options are contact Eyler Law Office at 214-540-7750 or email us.

BENEFITS OF PARTICIPATION IN TPAPN

This confidential program serves as an alternative to a nurse being reported to the Board of Nursing and facing possible disciplinary action taken against their nursing license.

TPAPN participants are offered a chance for successful recovery and assistance to return to the safe practice of nursing.

NON-COMPLIANCE OF/WITHDRAWAL FROM TPAPN

Before agreeing to enter the Texas Peer Assistance Program for Nurses (TPAPN), consult with an attorney. The TPAPN program is operated by the Texas Nurses Association. The program offers licensed nurses who are impaired by chemical dependency or mental illness an opportunity to undergo treatment and to safely return back to their nursing practice — all under the protection of confidentiality.

The TPAPN program is voluntary. And the nurse has to admit to having a problem and commit to the recovery process through TPAPN.

TPAPN is a good option for many nurses that actually do have a legitimate substance abuse problem or a mental health issue. TPAPN provides a level of structure and direction which can be helpful to a nurse who is new to sobriety and who is beginning to learn the tools necessary to remain abstinence.

In a perfect world, this should be accompanied by a supportive and non-punitive atmosphere designed to help this process. TPAPN's goal is, and should be, assisting nurses to become and stay sober while monitoring this process through objective indicators such as drug and alcohol screening and regular reports from employers and medical/mental health providers. Unfortunately, it has been proven that many of TPAPN's rules and policies are counterproductive to these goals, lead to unnecessary referrals to the Board, and discourage potential participants from enrolling in the program.

Nurses need to understand that TPAPN prohibits its participants from taking any medication that is potentially addictive or habit-forming even if it is medically indicated, validly prescribed, and completely unrelated to the reason for their participation. For example, a nurse who enrolls in TPAPN due to a history of alcohol abuse but who also has a longstanding and well documented chronic pain syndrome will be asked to discontinue all narcotics. A nurse may also be forced to discontinue psychiatric medications even though these are medically indicated and beneficial. This rule automatically disqualifies a whole range of potential participants who would otherwise be good candidates and can make compliance for existing participants extremely difficult.

Again, if you are a nurse who is facing allegations of substance abuse or mental disorders and need assistance deciding what your options are contact Eyler Law Office at 214-540-7750 or email us.

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