End of COVID-19 Emergency Orders and State of Emergency by October 31

On Sept. 8, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the upcoming rescission of all remaining COVID-19 emergency proclamations and state of emergency by Oct. 31.

Employing a nurse who is in the WHPS Program

What is the likelihood of recovery for nurses with substance use disorder?

Treatment for substance use disorder does work and nurses in recovery can re-enter the workplace safely when treatment and monitoring is in instituted. Research demonstrates that substance use disorder is treatable and that successful, long-term recovery is possible for all who maintain a rigorous relapse prevention program. A nurse who is known and being monitored can be a safer practitioner than a nurse who may have a substance use disorder that has not yet manifested or that has thus far gone undetected.

Is it safe to hire or retain a nurse who is participating in the WHPS Program?

WHPS supports nurses’ safe return to practice. When choosing to hire or retain a nurse who is being monitored by WHPS employers can feel confident in the oversight WHPS provides.

Before a nurse can return to work, WHPS first determines if they are safe to do so. WHPS considers a variety of factors in its decision (e.g., history and severity of SUD diagnosis, treatment response, contract compliance, random drug testing results, etc.).

To ensure safe practice, nurse's WHPS participation contract may include necessary practice restrictions. As the nurse continues to be successful in their recovery, WHPS will review and adjust their contract until they are able to perform all aspects of their duties without restrictions.

NOTE: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), persons with a history of a substance use disorder and who are currently in documented recovery have certain protections related to employment (i.e. reasonable accommodations). Employers may consult with their Human Resources department for specific guidance.

How can I verify a nurse is enrolled in WHPS and what practice restrictions are in place?

To participate in WHPS nurses must consent to allow WHPS to communicate with their employer and prospective employers.   This allows WHPS to communicate with employers about their employee’s enrollment status, ability to return to work, and (if applicable) any worksite monitoring requirements.

As part of the employment process the nurse will have the employer sign an Employment Agreement. The agreement lists all practice restrictions. The case manager will review the agreement and practice restrictions with the employer before considering approval for the job. It is important to know that the nurse cannot provide patient care until WHPS receives signed Employment Agreement and provides final approval for the job.

NOTE: As part of any successful Return-to-Work plan, the nurse will need to identify a worksite monitor (typically a direct clinical supervisor).

What is a worksite monitor’s role and responsibilities?

The role of the worksite monitor (typically a nurse’s direct clinical supervisor) is critical to ensure a nurse’s success in returning to safe nursing practice. WHPS and the worksite monitor maintain open communication regarding the nurse’s progress.

Management of a returning, recovering nurse is no different than that of any other employee. A worksite monitor will observe an employee’s progress at work and observe for any signs of relapse. The worksite monitor will submit monthly online practice reports to WHPS.

WHPS Worksite Monitor Orientation Course

What recommended policies or procedures can an employer have in place to guide decision making concerning issues of drug use in the workplace?

The language and format of policies or procedures varies from organization to organization. Employers may consider a comprehensive policy for addressing fitness-to-practice concerns that includes but is not limited to:

  • Education
  • Just culture
  • Surveillance
  • Drug testing
  • Compassionate intervention
  • Internal and external reporting requirements
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Return to practice guidelines
  • Relapse management
When can an employer direct a nurse to be drug tested?

With a consistently applied policy in place employers may direct a nurse to be tested when the nurse exhibits behavior that is consistent with substance use. The nursing commission recommends that nurses be asked to drug test whenever there are concerns regarding alcohol or drug use even if the nurse admits using.

Employers of WHPS nurse may request that WHPS drug test the nurse at any time there are concerns.

How can an employer learn more about a substance use disorder and/or WHPS?

Employers who wish to learn more about substance use disorder and its prevalence in the nursing profession may access Education resources at the WHPS website. Additionally, employers may schedule a presentation by contacting Dr. John Furman at John.Furman@doh.wa.gov.

WHPS Policies and Procedures

Workplace Resources

Intervention Guidelines

Just Culture

Request a Presentation

If you would like to request a education presentation on the WHPS program, please email whps@doh.wa.gov.

Contact Us

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use and are looking for further assistance, please contact us:

Phone: 360-236-2880, option 1

Email: whps@doh.wa.gov