Established under Chapter 467 of the Health and Safety Code, TPAPN is a state-approved peer assistance program for Texas nurses. Operated by the Texas Nurses Association, TPAPN offers licensed nurses who are impaired by chemical dependency or mental illness an opportunity to undergo treatment and to safely return back to nursing practice -all under the protection of confidentiality.Available to Licensed Vocational and Registered Nurses who are diagnosed with substance abuse, chemical dependency, anxiety disorders, major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, program participation is an alternative to being reported to the Board of Nurse Examiners. A nurse suffering or who thinks they may be afflicted with one of the above diagnoses can either self-report or be referred to TPAPN by their employer. Completely voluntary, the program allows a nurse who has entered TPAPN to decline to participate or withdraw at any time. However, failure to adequately fulfill the TPAPN contract may result in a report being generated to the Texas Board of Nurse Examiners.
The self-proclaimed goal of the program is to provide an effective channel for recovery from chemical dependency and/or mental illness and effective re-integration back into nursing practice, thus protecting the public and providing incentives for professional accountability. Once in TPAPN, the nurse is assigned a case manager with extensive academic and clinical expertise in chemical dependency and psychiatric nursing. The program also includes advocates, LVN and RN volunteers who are there to support nurses throughout the program. Advocates create another layer of support for when a nurse’s case manager is not available.
The TPAPN program combines the roles of overseeing appropriate treatment, continuing care, self-help groups, practice restrictions, drug screens and monthly/quarterly reporting to ensure that nurses honor their TPAPN agreements. When a nurse self-reports or is referred to TPAPN, the program staff will make an initial assessment as to eligibility. During the first 90 days after treatment, program participants must attend daily self-help meetings such as those conducted by AA or NA and afterwards continue to attend at least four meetings per week. Nurses participating due to mental illness must follow the recommendations of their mental health professionals. Once the nurse is ready to return to work they must receive authorization by their case manager and will be subject to temporary practice restrictions. These restrictions include a requirement to be supervised by another nurse, being barred from access to controlled medications during the first six months of work, shifts limited to a maximum of twelve hours, no overtime, on-call, or night-shift assignments, and not accepting employment with temporary staffing agencies. Program participants must also both abstain from all alcohol and abusable drugs/medications and agree to provide random drug screens. The program runs for a minimum of two years.
Program staff must report to the nurse’s employer as well as the Board if the participant is non-compliant, has a positive drug screen, withdraws from the program, or moves out of state. If the nurse is a self-referral, the TPAPN staff will report the nurse to the Board only if they determine that the participant may pose an immediate threat to themselves or others.
The primary legal benefit of TPAPN is that participation is confidential and successful completion serves as an alternative to being reported to the Texas Board of Nurse Examiners and possible disciplinary action taken against the nurse’s license. The greater advantage of TPAPN participation, however, is the advocacy and assistance it offers to help guide impaired nurses back into control over their lives and the effective practice of their profession.