One of the most often overlooked areas of the healthcare sector is how we address the need to care for our care providers. The College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia has initiated the Early Intervention Program, which is a program designed to address that concern by assisting nurses with addictions or any illness that could affect their ability to provide safe patient care, to engage in processes that benefit and improve their health.
Looking to support nurses who are suffering from an addictive illness, the program helps them bridge the gap between addiction and recovery while still maintaining their role in the workplace.
Cynthia Johansen, the registrar and chief executive officer for the College, said the program is still in its early stages, however it looks to fill a very important role within the health sector.
“The role of the regulator in our context is to regulate individual nurses,” she said. “We understand and appreciate that there are situations where a nurse may be struggling with a health issue and we can provide information and support.”
Johansen noted that a benefit of the program is wiping away the stigma surrounding addictive illness and recovery. Overseeing 36,000 nurses in the province of British Columbia, she added that the College hopes the program will get people talking about something they may have never recognized as a concern amongst health professionals.
“We want to get this discussion happening about what we collectively need to think about when it comes to regulating in the public interest and ensuring that individuals provide safe, competent care to patients.”
Upholding personal privacy is also paramount within the program, as is protecting nurses’ rights under the law, she added. The four goals of the program, as outlined on the College’s website, detail the approach taken to address this sensitive subject:
1: ensure that nurses who require assistance attend treatment and engage in ongoing prevention
2: promote public protection
3: ensure nurses are practicing only when fit to do so; and
4: meet statutory reporting requirements in accordance with sections 32.2 and 32.3 of the Health Professions Act
A nurse’s involvement in the program is not noted on the CRNBC public register, as these nurses are meeting the Professional Responsibility and Accountability Standard by removing themselves from nursing before their illness negatively impacts their practice. Nurses in the program may not return to practice until an independent medical expert has approved their return. In addition, nurses who do return to practice must have also agreed to allow CRNBC to monitor their compliance with treatment recommendations. Nurses may also self-refer to the program and employers or physicians can also refer.
Johansen said they not only want to allow self-reporting, but foster a workplace culture where self-reporting is encouraged, which increases patient care and safety in the process, thus caring for the care providers.
“CRNBC is committed to working with nurses who do return to practice,” she added, noting the program doesn’t end when nurses are fit to return to work. “And part of the support that we provide is to help with monitoring and ongoing conversations with them.”
The end result is that a nurse receives the treatment he or she needs, and is also allowed to return to practice when he or she is fit to do so.
“Recovery doesn’t end. It’s an ongoing process for individuals so we want to do what is good and right to support them in their return to practice within the mandate of our public interest approach to regulation. Balancing the privacy and confidentiality of nurses’ health information while assuring the public that nurses are safe and competent to practice is our primary goal with this program.”