Impaired Practitioner Program

The Impaired Practitioner program is a program under the purview of Florida’s Florida Department of Health designed to address “Professional Impairment” of practitioners in the care industry.

What is Professional Impairment?
Professional Impairment is the condition of being unable to preform one’s professional duties and responsibilities in a reasonable manner and consistent with professional standards. It often affects judgment, cognitive function, reaction time and stress-coping mechanisms, and often increases with time. Moreover, as impairment progresses, the potential for the impaired practitioner delivering compromised patient care increases.

Professional Impairment in much broader than the impairment the State must prove in the prosecution for a DUI. Although, professional certainly can be rooted in the use of mind altering substances and intoxicants, such as drugs and alcohol, it can also stem from distorted thought processes owing to mental illness or physical condition, as well extreme mood and anxiety states.

Typical warning signs of impairment include:

  • Increased absenteeism, typically on either side of the practitioner’s scheduled time off
  • Subtle behavioral changes that grow more severe with time
  • Deterioration of job performance
  • Mood swings
  • Personality changes
  • Disproportionate overreactions

What Happens?
Any person suspecting professional impairment of a practitioner’s ability to deliver care safely – even the practitioner – may report it to either one of the two Impaired Practitioner Programs administered by the Department of Health – either the Professional Resource Network (PRN) or the Impaired Nurses Program (IPN) – or the Department of Health itself (see “Who are the Entities?” below). Typical reporting parties of professional impairment include hospitals, group practices, individual partners, staff, patients, treatment providers, family, friends, pharmacies and law enforcement.

Upon receiving a report of professional impairment, the entity that received it, will, given sufficient evidence, require an independent evaluation of the reported person by an approved provider. Typically the entity requesting the evaluation will give the reported person an option of three evaluators. Evaluations vary from one-hour in office assessments to 3-5 day multidisciplinary evaluations. A second opinion is allowed should the practitioner disagree with the initial assessment.

How is Treatment Delivered?
When the evaluator recommends treatment the entity typically offers three options for an approved provider. This selection will be based on the illness identified, the type of treatment needed, the intensity of treatment required and the geographic location when possible. Treatment is case specific and varies from office follow-up for medication management and/or therapy to extended residential treatment for several months.

Can a Participant Still Practice?
During the evaluation and any resulting treatment, the participant may be refrained from practicing. Approved treatment providers approve the return to practice in with the entity the to which the impairment was initially reported. Moreover, a return to practice could be allowed but with limitations, especially upon the initial return.

Who are the Entities?
The Florida Department of Health administers the Impaired Practitioners Program through itself, and through two non-profit organizations. The Professional Resource Network (PRN) is the program for medical doctors, osteopaths, dentists, pharmacists and other non-nurse health professionals. The Impaired Nurses Program (IPN) is the one for nurses.