Demystifying Professional Assistance Program of New Jersey

Stress, financial difficulties, effects of aging, declining health and a myriad of other pressures could lead to poor work performance and imperil the license of healthcare professionals. A program designed to assist healthcare professionals in recovery may help. The Professional Assistance Program of New Jersey (PAPNJ or NJPAP or the Program) monitors and provides support in the recovery of physicians, pharmacists, dentists, nurses and other health care professionals. The Program not only assists in the recovery from drug or alcohol use or dependence but also from other health impairments, such as cognitive impairments, hypertension, diabetes, physical disabilities or depression. PAPNJ can also play an important part in protecting a professional’s license. 

The PAPNJ actively assists, monitors and/or advocates on behalf of approximately 700 professionals.  The majority of these professionals are doctors, followed by pharmacists, dentists, nurses and other professionals.

How does a healthcare professional participate with PAPNJ? Program participation could be court or Board mandated. The Program also receives referrals from colleagues, employers, other state Boards, office staff, professional school deans and residency program directors, family members as well as out of state physician health programs.

As many healthcare professionals already know, they have an affirmative obligation to report in certain cases. Specifically, if a doctor, dentist, nurse, pharmacist, chiropractor, or other healthcare professional possesses information that “reasonably indicates that another professional has demonstrated an impairment, gross incompetence or unprofessional conduct which would present an imminent danger to an individual patient or to the public health, safety or welfare,” they are required to report. Reports can be done to a Board, or, alternatively, to PAPNJ. Failure to report may result in disciplinary action.

When the reporting is done directly to PAPNJ, and depending on the circumstances of each case, healthcare professionals can participate confidentially, as that term is defined by regulation.

What can participating with PAPNJ mean for a healthcare professional? While each case is fact specific, the Program can assist licensed professionals in maintaining their license while protecting the public. If a healthcare professional successfully participates in the Program, in turn, the Program can advocate on behalf of the healthcare professional before the Board or employers.

Program participation, however, can be a new and daunting challenge for healthcare professionals already dealing with a career-threatening health crisis. Our office can assist healthcare professionals in understanding the process, individuals rights, ramifications of certain actions or inactions, and champion on behalf of professionals before professional Boards, PAPNJ, and employers.

If you have questions regarding colleague reporting requirements, the alternative resolution program, PAPNJ, or have other health law related questions, please contact our office.