288 recovering nurses currently monitored in Tennessee, some back at work

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – 330 recovering medical professionals in Tennessee, including 288 nurses, are currently in a monitoring agreement with the Tennessee Professional Assistance Program, according to the organization.

The Tennessee Nurses Association created the program decades ago to provide an alternative to discipline for impaired nurses in recovery. It has since expanded to partner with other state licensing boards, including physical therapy, emergency medical services and physician assistants.

“The theory was if you could get a nurse in recovery from this disease and monitor them very closely, they would be safe to return to practice and you would save a nurse’s license,” TnPAP Executive Director Mike Harkreader said. “Nurses who divert drugs are not bad people. They’re individuals suffering from a disease. We are able to help most nurses.”

The program, which usually results in monitoring for three years, requires participants to remain drug and alcohol-free for the entire time of the agreement and includes randomized toxicology screening and attendance at support group meetings, among others things. Participants deemed safe to return to work are allowed to do so.

In the last year, 16 medical professionals from the Tri-Cities were referred to TnPAP, according to the organization.

A grand jury recently indicted one of those nurses, whose license is currently on probation. Despite her pending trial, Mountain States Health Alliance is choosing to continue to employ her at Johnson City Medical Center and other nurses in recovery.

Tonight at six MSHA’s chief nursing executive explains why the health system thinks it’s “the right thing to do.”

Most of the people referred to the program over the last year have come from East Tennessee, according to TnPAP.

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