Characteristics and experiences of past participants in the Texas Peer Assistance Program for Nurses

Kathleen Anne Rickman, The University of Texas School of Public Health


There are nearly 200,000 licensed practicing nurses in the state of Texas, representing one-tenth of the nations' workforce. The prevalence of substance abuse among nurses is estimated to range between six and 20 percent in this professional group. Since March 1987, the Texas Peer Assistance Program for Nurses (TPAPN) has offered intervention, education, support and monitoring to nurses in Texas whose practice has become impaired due to substance abuse and/or mental illness. Since then approximately 44 percent of nurses who voluntarily signed participation agreements successfully completed the program; fifty-six percent have not. One determinant of completion for those nurses identified as chemically dependent is abstinence from mood altering substances. Other helping professions report higher rates of abstinence two years following treatment. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between relapse, demographics, treatment variables, work setting, "stress" indicators and support factors for nurses who participated in TPAPN. A questionnaire was mailed to 1000 randomly selected nurses who had signed agreements since 1987 and were no longer active in the program. More than 41% of the questionnaires were returned undeliverable. Recipients of the questionnaire were known only to TPAPN, never to the investigator. All information was received anonymously except when the participant chose to sign the questionnaire. A cover letter explaining the study and inviting participation was enclosed. Completion and return of the questionnaire was considered consent to participate. Findings demonstrated a significant relationship between relapse and opiates as the drug of choice for past participants in the Texas Peer Assistance Program for Nurses. Significant associations were found among factors such as control at work, support, physical complaints, job security, self-esteem and employment in this sample. Respondents shared copious written comments about their experiences in TPAPN. These data were analyzed using qualitative methods and compared with similar studies of recovering nurses. Further research with nurses whose practice has been affected by abuse of chemical and mental illness is warranted.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Rickman, Kathleen Anne, "Characteristics and experiences of past participants in the Texas Peer Assistance Program for Nurses" (1996). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9700050.