A critical resource for pandemic times: Learn about the Nurses’ Health Program

COVID-19 has made it a more challenging time for people with addiction and mental health disorders. It’s also been an enormously stressful, exhausting and sometimes traumatizing experience, particularly for nurses at the frontlines dealing with COVID or working anywhere under the extraordinary circumstances created by the pandemic.

For that reason, I am taking the opportunity to remind our nursing readers – NPs, RNs and RPNs – of the Nurses’ Health Program that can be a crucially important resource for those who may need it.

Are you struggling with mental health and/or substance use disorders? Do you know a colleague who is seeking help? Please forward them this information.

The Nurses’ Health Program (NHP) is a voluntary bilingual program for Ontario nurses. It is designed to encourage nurses to seek treatment for substance use and/or mental health disorders that may affect their ability to practice nursing safely. It is a recognized best-in-class approach that focuses on early identification and referral for treatment. The program is modelled on similar ones used by other regulated health professions across the province.

NHP provides an opportunity for Ontario nurses with substance use and/or mental health disorders to receive support to recover and practice safely. It is designed so that eligible participants can continue practicing while following a treatment and monitoring plan.

The program monitors the nurses’ recovery so that they may be supported to practice safely or return to practice, which promotes professional accountability and protects the public.

The Nurses’ Health Program embraces the philosophy that nurses who have substance use and/or mental health disorders should have an opportunity for education, treatment and recovery. We know nurses benefit from specialized treatments that recognize their unique needs as health care professionals.

Our focus reflects the balance between supporting nurses in recovery and protecting the public. We believe that with the right support nurses can continue or return to safe nursing practice benefiting both the nurse and the public.

When you join the program, you benefit from:

  • access to professional advice and health care services, including treatment providers
  • an initial assessment and case management paid for by NHP
  • a program tailored to your unique needs to support your recovery
  • confidence that your name will not be disclosed to the public if you follow the obligations of the program

The Nurses’ Health Program is supported by:

NHP was developed when the four nursing organizations agreed this approach provides an effective channel for nurses with substance use and/or mental health disorders to receive support to recover and practice nursing safely.

To be eligible for the program you must be:

  • registered with the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) in the general or extended class
  • experiencing issues with substance use and/or mental health disorders that impact your ability to practice safely

You can contact the program here or call toll-free 1-833-888-7135.