Indiana State Nurses Assistance Program
Protecting the Public While Saving Careers
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Indiana State Nurses Assistance Program: ISNAP

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An unsettling statistic, relevant to nursing, is that alcohol and drug abuse have become the third highest preventable health problem in the US.

It is known, that nurses and other health care professionals are not exempt from this health crisis. Not only do we, as nurses, need to be aware of these statistics so we can safely care for our patients but also for our staff members and ourselves.

Conservative estimates, nationally, suggest that somewhere between 7 to 10% of the American population are addicted to alcohol or other drugs. Many researchers believe the figure to be much higher, reaching nearly twenty percent. Accurate statistical numbers are difficult to obtain, as addiction is a highly stigmatized disease; the addicted person feels tremendous shame and tends to hide.

The impact of a person’s addiction is felt directly AND upon everyone else in their sphere. Family, friends and co-workers are negatively affected. With the impaired nurse, it is patient safety with which we are most concerned. In nursing, the primary concern is for the patient. We cannot accurately determine the actual costs of patient care errors which are caused by impaired nurses.

Some experts in recovery suggest that these estimates are higher than for the general population; due perhaps to nurses’ ready access to controlled substances, as well as the increased stress on today’s nurses. The good news is that for those whodecide to undergo treatment, a successful recovery is possible.

  • Chemical Dependency is a primary, chronic and progressive disease and is not a moral issue.
  • Untreated substance abuse is a quality-of-life threatening illness with potentially fatal consequences.
  • Successful rehabilitation is possible with appropriate treatment and support.

Nurses care for others, that is who we are. A nurse, who becomes impaired due to the abuse of alcohol and other drugs, deserves the care and support offered to any chronically ill patient. Addiction is a disease process. And as an illness, substance use disorders have identifiable symptoms and predictable outcomes unless treated. Nurses frequently do not seek treatment for alcohol and other drug problems because of their fear of exposure, possible loss of employment and the judgment of their peers. As a profession, it is in our collective best interest to help impaired nurses achieve recovery.

Consumer Protection

Identification, intervention and appropriate treatment leading to rehabilitation create safer work environments for both our patients as well as the staff. It is ISNAP’s primary purpose to ensure public safety. ISNAP is governed by the Indiana State Board of Nursing. Indiana statutes direct the monitoring and facilitation of the recovery of Indiana Nurses who have a DSM-IV diagnosis of Substance Use Abuse or Dependency. The preservation of Indiana’s nurse resources is a vital concern for us.

It is a nurses’ ethical, professional and legal responsibility, in Indiana, to help identify impaired colleagues to ensure patient/client safety. Some health care systems have policies and procedures in place, which aid in reporting and helping impaired colleagues. If your facility does not have such a process in place, our Program Director can present an in-service at your location. Detection and treatment protects the rights of the patient, the impaired nurse and the employer.

The disease of addiction has observable, predictable symptoms and outcomes, which may be fatal if left untreated. Addiction is caused by the interaction of biological, psychosocial and environmental factors. As with other chronic diseases, treatment is effective, but there is no cure for addiction. The person remains at lifelong risk for relapse. Total abstinence from all psychoactive substances is essential to maintain sobriety. Continual self-care planning is an integral component of monitoring; including ongoing involvement with 12-Step recovery groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Nurse Support Meetings.

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