Drug Diversion Support Groups: Hope for Addicted Nurses

Kristin is an RN who blogs about drug diversion issues.
Kristin is an RN who blogs about drug diversion issues.

Today I would like to share a bit about the Florida Board of Nursing’s “Intervention Project for Nurses” or IPN. It is similar to other Drug Diversion Programs that many states have, but it has a piece to it that is a bit different…they have a statewide support groups for nurses. This interests me, what a great idea. To have nurses that have been through the same issues regarding drug diversion talk to those who are beginning their journey is a very valuable tool.

“The mission of IPN is to ensure public health and safety by providing an avenue for swift intervention/close monitoring and advocacy of nurses whose practice may be impaired due to the use, misuse, or abuse of alcohol or drugs, or a mental and/or physical condition. IPN is authorized by Florida Statute, Chapter 464/456, to assist those nurses whose practice is affected.”

“Program Objectives…

  • To ensure public health and safety through a program that provides close monitoring of nurses who are unsafe to practice, due to the use of drugs including alcohol and/or psychiatric, psychological or a physical condition (chapter 455.261).
  • To provide a program for affected nurses to be rehabilitated in a therapeutic, non-punitive, and confidential process.
  • To provide an opportunity for retention of nurses within the nursing profession
  • To facilitate early intervention, thereby decreasing the time between the nurse’s acknowledgment of the problem and his/her entry into a recovery program.
  • To require the nurse to withdraw from practice immediately, and until such time that the IPN is assured that he/she is able to safely return to the practice of nursing.
  • To provide a cost effective alternative to the traditional disciplinary process.
  • To develop a statewide resource network for referring nurses to appropriate services.
  • To provide confidential consultations for Nurse Managers.”

The IPN has a vast network of resources for nurses. Florida has 150 Nurse Support Groups throughout the state. Each group has a facilitator. This is what one had to say, “I have been a Nurse Support Group Facilitator for over 12 years. I have witnessed many nurses come and go from my groups. The “magic” of the Nurse Support Group lies in the fact that a nurse who feels totally alone and full of negative self-talk and shame, secondary to his or her substance use disorder, attends group with other colleagues who have struggled with similar feelings and circumstances. There is a realization that “I am not alone anymore” and hope is born.” And one of the participants shared this, “Walking into my Nurse Support Group the first time surprised me. I will never forget the experience. My first surprise was how welcoming folks were to me. I listened as members shared a little about themselves with me, and I was amazed how similar the stories were to mine! I left that night with a sense of hope.”

I know when I first started this journey, I needed to speak to other people going through what I was. I was lucky in the sense that my counselor had another nurse she was treating with almost the exact same issues. What I didn’t have was someone who had been successful in going through the BON’s program and returning to practice. It would have been very helpful to have someone walk me through the process. As it was, I fumbled around with a lot of anxiety and some missteps. I would love to be a resource for nurses new to the BON monitoring program and new to sobriety. 12 step programs are essential in my opinion and they have worked so well for me, but they do not include anything about how to recover as a nurse. Including how to navigate the overwhelming program requirements, how to deal with the feelings of shame and remorse, how to get to a point where working as a nurse is a possibility again. I could be that resource, there are many like me that could. Together we can make a difference.

Evelyn McKnight and Lauren Lollini

  • reply Natasha Waters ,


    My name is Natasha. I am doing a research paper on impaired nurses for nursing school and I would love to interview a nurse who has dealt with the issue. I would really like to gain the perspective of a nurse who has or is dealing with substance abuse. Do you have access to someone who would let me interview them for my paper? It would be completely anonymous. Thank you in advance.

    • reply PedsNurse ,

      Hope u found your nurse! If not, lemme know

    • reply Yvonne Lakey ,

      Anyone have any knowledge or information on the Diversion program in the state of New Mexico?? I think the program in NM wants you to fail. If anyone knows of someone who has been through it please contact me!! TIA

      • reply PedsNurse ,

        I’m an RN. I love my job more than anything, only coming in second when I became a mom six years ago. 12 years I’ve been a nurse. The last two, completely addicted. I’ve lost everything. I’ve never diverted from work but i’ve lost several jobs… You could say as an indirect result of my addiction. My license is still in good standing in all 3 states I’m licensed in…. But I think I’m starting to finally accept this isn’t going to be the case for long and I’ve GOT to find something that WORKS. WHAT will it take for me to stop?? I’ve done the ritzy inpatient detox… I’ve done the state funded Medicaid detox and inpatient treatment. I’ve done a few stints with the methadone clinic and also suboxone. I recently got bAck into inpatient nursing (pediatric heme/onc if it matters) and one patients mom looks at me and says “what did you do to your hand?? Did you fall or something?” I looked at my hand to see that she was referring to my track marks (my hands have old darker pigmented areas following my veins). As I looked at her, I knew she knew… I deemed likely from her own use after assessing the situation but there’s no way to know for sure. I’ve always said I can spot one of my own people like a needle in a haystack (haha or a needle in a vein? No? Not really a good forum for such dark humor I suppose.) Much like my best friend claims to have gaydar, perhaps I have an “addict-o-meter”
        1) advice on how to respond to inquiries regarding track marks or other evidence of past addiction? Would your response change depending on if its a patient vs colleague vs MD vs random person?
        2) I keep hearing I need to hit rock bottom. I’m pretty sure I have. A few times. Ive lost everyone, everything. I’m staying in a shelter and taking a bus around. I actually went to jail in Florida for a month last year. Charges were dropped, but I still endured the trauma of the experience. And detoxing in jail. Wow.. That was an experience. I got a good job, but used at work and fell asleep on a night shift and was let go beginning of Dec. Bc of the timing so close to the holidays, it took me til mid january to find a new job which by then I had no money and an eviction notice. I willfully accepted my parents help with my daughter as they stated they’d do everything they could for her but not me. So. I got a great gig as a travel nurse. Lost my job 3 weeks in. I truly don’t believe it was a result of using as much as I feel its karma for still using. I was let go due to “personality differences” with staff… Again nothing about that situation would have changed with or without drugs but again I acknowledge that it “serves me right”
        Now I’m just rambling. I’m lost. I’m broke broken. All I need and want is support from my famiy who live by a cold shoulder mantra lacking any positivity or understanding of addiction.

        • reply Rebecca stevens ,

          Not sure if this is still up and running, found it in my search for help….. I will be entering IPN program in FL in the next week or so just looking for some support to help me through. I love being a nurse, I don’t want to lose my license or never practice again. Anyone out there who can help a nurse find her balance again, to help mentor me through this process would he more appreciated than you will ever know.

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