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Is TPAPN the right choice?

Is The Texas Peer Assistance Program For Nurses (TPAPN) the right Choice?

This article is for Licensed Vocational Nurses, Registered Nurses, or Advanced Practice Registered Nurses who have gotten a letter suggesting that you voluntarily enter the Texas Peer Assistance Program. Maybe you have heard some stories about The Texas Peer Assistance Program For Nurses (TPAPN) and are wondering if it’s the right choice for you.

This post will hopefully supply some answers.

Usually, the main concerns are consequences for your nursing license if you don’t enter the program. This post discusses some of the pros – and especially cons – of the TPAPN program, and why you might want to wait before entering the program on a voluntary basis.

TPAPN shouldn't be the first choice, but sometimes it's the only way to save your nurse license.

What is Texas Peer Assistance Program for Nurses?

The Texas Nurses Foundation, which is the “charitable, professional and scholarly arm of the Texas Nurses Association”, operates TPAPN. It’s a non-profit program, and the stated goal is to “offer the opportunity for RNs and LVNs to find their way through the challenges of substance abuse and/or mental illness and return to practice safely.

Sounds ok, right? Nurses who have issues with drug or alcohol abuse, substance abuse, or who have mental health issues are offered peer support to get them closer toa successful recovery process. Also, the public is served because it does nobody any good to be dealing with an impaired professional nurse. The TPAPN program serves the public as well as nurses.

What is it like for TPAPN Participants?

TPAPN nurses who enter this voluntary program are subject to random drug tests and undergo treatment for mental illness, a substance abuse problem, alcohol abuse, or other mental health condition. Participants are given an assigned case manager, and slip-ups with regards to random drug tests could result in disciplinary action.

Nurses are about 50% more likely to suffer from alcohol abuse than the general population.

Set up to Fail?

While TPAPN does give an opportunity to avoid a ding on your nursing license, the confidential program serves to protect the public – sometimes at the expense of the nurse referred to the program. I would encourage any nurses who are considering the TPAPN program to review social media to see firsthand experiences from others who have participated in the assistance program for nurses. It’s not all roses.

In addition to being a considerable burden on your time, it can also create conflict with your employer. If you have to leave work for drug screens to avoid a disciplinary action, you might leave your employer and coworkers in a vulnerable spot.

And it’s expensive. Drug screens can cost $60-$160 dollars, depending on the lab and the type of test. These costs are all borne by the TPAPN participants. Nurses in the program must call every day to find out if they are scheduled for a drug screen. It’s easy to forget, and failure to call can result in the Texas Board of Nursing taking action.

Additionally, TPAPN nurses are often facing issues of chemical dependency, or have one or more diagnosis of mental illness. For these nurses, TPAPN can place an additional burden on their mental health. So, while TPAPN purports to aid nurses who are struggling, it can often have the opposite effect. One study found that only 44% of nurses who entered the program were able to successfully complete it.

Is Participation in TPAPN Mandatory?

If you have received a letter urging participation in TPAPN, you should be aware that participation at this point is completely voluntary. However, failure to enter into the Texas Peer Assistance Program could get you another letter from the Texas Board of Nursing.

The Texas Board of Nursing takes substance abuse very seriously. Any allegations could potentially have consequences for your nursing practice. While not mandatory, an approved peer assistance program like TPAPN can give you the opportunity to show professional accountability so that you can continue to practice nursing.

Will TPAPN attendance show on my record?

If you enter into the program on a voluntary basis, TPAPN maintains confidentiality consistent with their promise to keep it off your nurse license record. If you decide not to enter TPAPN, the allegation of a substance abuse problem or a mental health issue will likely be reported to the Board. In this case, an investigation will be opened.

This scares many Registered Nurses into submitting to TPAPN. However, the reality of the Board’s investigation might be discipline that is less significant than TPAPN. Every case is different, so if you are considering the Texas Peer Assistance Program for Nurses, it might be a good idea to first seek the advice of an attorney.

So is TPAPN the right choice?

In my practice, I rarely recommend that a Nurse enter into TPAPN voluntarily. However, if keeping an unblemished record is the main priority, it can be an option. There are also scenarios where the Texas BON orders participation. In this case, TPAPN can be the only way to save your license.

The Texas Peer Assistance Program for Nurses is – on paper – a great idea. It should give nurses who are facing chemical dependency or mental health issues, a lifeline in the form of peer support. In theory this should only aid the recovery process. In practice however, it typically serves to stifle successful recovery by piling additional burdens on nurses who are already in trouble.

TPAPN is supposed to be about nurses helping nurses.  But is it really?

Should I hire an attorney?

If you are considering TPAPN, there may be alternatives. I would urge you not to make your decision until after speaking with an experienced attorney. You can schedule a consult with ATX Legal by filling out a contact form.

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