By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
Physicians, dentists, nurses, and other health professionals, accused of wrongdoing, may be referred to or receive recommendations from colleagues to refer themselves to the Professionals Resource Network (PRN) or the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN). This is often done by someone who has little to no knowledge about these programs or what they require. An individual who does this may find himself or herself in a situation that they rapidly come to regret.
Both programs have done some wonderful things. They have saved the lives and careers of many health professionals who have issues with drugs and alcohol, or who suffer from mental illnesses. However, often a person may be accused of being an addict, alcoholic, serious substance abuser or having an uncontrolled mental illness when nothing is further from the truth. Then these programs may not be right for that individual.
Often we find that a physician may be referred to PRN if he or she is suspected of excess drinking if alcohol is smelled on that person’s breath, if the physician is suspected of using drugs, or if he/she exhibits behavior that is now being labeled as “disruptive.” To read a previous blog I have written about those accused of being “disruptive physicians,” click here.
Nurses are routinely instructed that they “must” report to IPN when there is some discrepancy in the narcotics count at a hospital or nursing home, someone makes an anonymous complaint (even a false one) about the nurse or the nurse is suspected (even wrongly) of diverting drugs. We have found that some hospitals and nursing homes routinely do this to their nurses without any consideration of whether the person is innocent.
Many health professionals are advised by their colleagues that they should falsely claim they are alcoholics or addicts to get into PRN or IPN to avoid disciplinary action against their licenses. For those afflicted with a serious substance abuse problem or a mental illness, this may be correct. However, if it is not the case, this advice is egregiously wrong.
PRN and IPN Are Not the “Easy Way Out.”
These organizations may be lifesavers for those who actually need them but may seem like punishment to those who do not. Either way, these programs are not the “easy way out” of legal problems.
For an example of one physician’s reported experiences with such a program, click here.
Although these articles are dated, we were recently contacted by a physician who disclosed a similar anecdote as reported in these articles.
If you are accused of wrongdoing, violating your practice act, or if you are threatened with being reported to the Department of Health (DOH) or your professional board, especially if you are being falsely accused, then it is much better to defend yourself and fight such charges instead of trying to “take the easy way out.”
Speak with an Attorney Immediately, at the Beginning and Prior to Making Any Decisions or Calls.
You should obtain information on the facts and alternatives immediately when accused and prior to making any such decision, calling anyone, or speaking with any investigator. Contact our firm to speak with an attorney who can provide information to you on your options.
Click here to read my prior blog on impaired practitioner programs and learn more valuable information.
You Must Carry Insurance Which Covers the Legal Fees For Defending a Complaint Against Your License.
We always recommend that all health professionals carry insurance that covers their attorney’s fees and their legal defense expenses when they are accused of an offense that may affect their licenses. Most physicians and dentists already have insurance that covers this. Nurses can buy insurance that covers this for less than ten dollars ($10) a month (note: available from Nurses Service Organization (NSO), CPH & Associates and other carriers). Other health professionals such as pharmacists, psychologists, mental health counselors, massage therapists, respiratory therapists, aids and technicians should either pay extra for such coverage on their existing policies or should buy a separate policy which covers this (note: available from Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO), Lloyd’s of London and other carriers). The absolute minimum coverage you should have for this purpose is $25,000; if you don’t have this much coverage for professional license defense, purchase more.
Remember This Is My Opinion.
What I say in this blog is my opinion. There are those who may disagree with it. If so, tough! It is my experience as an attorney with more than 33 years of experience, and I’m sticking by it.
Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys in Matters Involving PRN or IPN.
The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent physicians, dentists, nurses and other health professionals in matters involving PRN or IPN. Our attorneys also represent health providers in Department of Health investigations, before professional boards, in licensing matters, and in administrative hearings.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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