How Does COVID-19 Quarantine Affect IPN, PRN Referral or Enrollment?

Throughout the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, temporary regulatory compliance and licensure measures have been put in place within the health care field. However, matters involving the Florida Department of Health have not yet seen adjustments, exceptions or clarifications during COVID-19.

Physicians, nurses and other licensed health care professionals who might be facing impairment or diversion accusations are trapped in a holding pattern, and they’re wanting to know:

  • Should they call Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN) or the Professionals Resource Network (PRN)?
  • Is it better for them to wait before enrolling in IPN and PRN?
  • How will this affect their ability to work? Will they have to refrain from practice? And what does this mean in the wake of COVID-19?

These are questions that Sara A. Bazzigaluppi, who handles licensing and regulatory matters at Chapman Law Group’s Sarasota branch, has been fielding as of late.

In a new video, she discusses what several practitioners have been asking her about Coronavirus and IPN/PRN.

Requirements Stay the Same — But There Are Wrinkles

Sara specializes in representing and advising licensed health care professionals during DOH disciplinary proceedings — in particular, cases involving impairment or diversion issues that lead to entering impaired-practitioner programs.

She explains that if you’re already enrolled in IPN or PRN, or if you’re in the process of entering the respective program, the requirements remain the same during COVID-19.

In order for you to enroll in these programs preemptively, you still must sign refrain-from-practice forms. By signing these forms, you are promising these entities that you won’t be in practice until you are formally assessed by an evaluator, who can then determine your fitness level for practicing and whether you’re safe to do so.

There’s a problem, however: many of these evaluators are not working because of Coronavirus.

Making things worse, there is no legislative clarity on whether evaluations for the purpose of IPN or PRN enrollment can be conduct in person or via telehealth/telemedicine.

Getting in IPN, PRN is Now ‘Actually Very Hard’

While Sara has reached out to IPN and PRN for answers, so far there aren’t any. This means, then, if you’ve signed a refrain-from-practice form, which is the standard procedure, you cannot work until you get an evaluation.

“I don’t know how fair that is or how legal it is for IPN and PRN to force you to refrain from practicing until you are evaluated,” she explains. “If you’re trying to get into the program, right now you probably need to contact an attorney just to help you through the process.”

Further, Sara says, because they want to avoid COVID-19 exposure, facilities are now extra cautious about admitting physicians or nurses for new IPN- or PRN-related treatment — whether a 60-day intensive outpatient treatment or a 90-day partial hospitalization program.

We’re Here to Help You Take the Best Route

As a reminder, Sara notes that even though IPN and PRN have the power to require licensed health care professionals to refrain from practice, “that doesn’t mean they can force you to do that indefinitely without substantial evidence that you’re in fact impaired and unable to practice with reasonable skill and safety.”

Entering an IPN or PRN program is a long-term commitment. The costs are enormous, both financially and professionally. If you are referred to IPN or PRN and need to fill out refrain-from-practice forms, or are in the early phases of enrolling in IPN or PRN, contact the health care lawyers at Chapman Law Group. We can explain your options and advise you on what would be your best route to take.

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