Impaired Practitioner Programs: What You Need to Know if You’ve Been Accused of Impairment or Disruptive Behavior

Thursday, December 6, 2018
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

In an industry that revolves around serving others, physicians and other health professionals sometimes find that they are the ones being pushed toward a treatment program. According to a recent study, physician wellness and quality of patient care go hand-in-hand. Long hours, heavy work loads and stress among health care professionals can sometimes lead to unsafe, unprofessional behavior and impairment allegations.

We routinely work with physicians, nurses and other health professionals who are accused by employers, hospitals, competitors, or terminated employees of impairment due to drug or alcohol abuse, of mental impairment, of being a "disruptive physician" or of sexual boundary issues. However, not all physicians and health professionals who are referred to a health program are in actual need of rehabilitation services.


What is the Impaired Practitioners Program?


The Florida Department of Health's (DOH) Impaired Practitioners Program (IPN), Section 456.067, Florida Statutes, is administered by the Intervention Project for Nurses or "IPN" (for nurses and nurse practitioners) and by the Professionals Resource Network or "PRN" (for physicians, dentists, pharmacists and all other health professionals).  IPN is responsible for all nurses and works with and through the Florida Board of NursingPRN works with and through the Florida Board of Medicine, Board of Dentistry, Board of Pharmacy, and other Department of Health Professional Boards.


You Are Instructed to Report Yourself to IPN or PRN;  What Now?


These types of allegations discussed above made against a physician, nurse or other health professional are extremely serious because they are usually treated by the DOH as "Priority 1" or "Fast Track" offenses. This means that the charges against the individual will usually be automatically considered for an Emergency Suspension Order (ESO) issued by the Florida Surgeon General at the request of the Department of Health. Unless a qualified, experienced health care attorney is able to immediately produce reliable documentation and evidence showing the health professional is not impaired, the Surgeon General will usually issue an ESO. Click here to read one of my prior blogs to learn more.

Even in cases where the individual may actually have committed an offense, there are a number of administrative and procedural measures that may be used to avoid a suspended license. For the innocent health professional, an experienced attorney familiar with such matters may be able to obtain additional drug testing, polygraph (lie detector) testing, medical examinations, scientific evidence, expert witnesses, evaluations by certified addictions professionals, character references, or other evidence which may help to show innocence and lack of impairment.


Call an Attorney Immediately, at the Beginning and Prior to Making Any Decisions or Calls!

If you are accused of wrongdoing, especially accusations involving drug or alcohol abuse or impairment, even if you are threatened with being reported to the DOH or your professional board, then it may be much better to defend yourself and fight such charges instead of trying to "take the easy way out."  This is especially true if you are being falsely accused.  There are many problems that you can avoid by having good legal advice before you make a stupid mistake.  We are often consulted and retained by clients when, after they have made the mistake of talking to the wrong people about the wrong things, they are in a situation they could have avoided.

Our firm has extensive experience in representing physicians and other professionals accused of drug abuse, alcohol impairment, mental impairment and sexual boundary issue, as well as in dealing with the IPN and the PRN, their advantages and disadvantages, their contracts, their policies and procedures, and their requirements.

The bottom line is: if you are accused of drug impairment, alcohol impairment, drug diversion, sexual boundary issues, sexual misconduct, or of being mentally or physically impaired, immediately contact an attorney experienced with IPN and PRN and with the Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing, Board of Dentistry, Board of Pharmacy, and other professional boards. Don't risk losing your livelihood by just taking the apparent easy way out without checking into it.  There may be other options available for you, especially if you are innocent and not impaired.

To read one of my prior blogs about the recent changes to Florida’s Impaired Practitioners Program, click here.

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.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


Sources:

Masterson, Les. “Physician wellness, quality of care go hand-in-hand, analysis finds.” Healthworks Collective. (September 10, 2018). Web.

Maria Panagioti, Keith Geraghty, Judith Johnson. “Association Between Physician Burnout and Patient Safety, Professionalism, and Patient Satisfaction.” Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA). (September 4, 2018). Web.

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 the 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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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
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12/6/2018

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