August 4, 2021

Nurse Rehabilitation Programs: Why Is Enrollment So Low?

Dr. Stephen Strobbe provides his insights in this MedPageToday article. 

Dr. Stephen Strobbe, Clinical Professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, and the Department of Psychiatry, was interviewed by MedPage Today regarding substance use among nurses, and relatively low enrollment in rehabilitation programs, despite comparatively high rates of success.  

Read the entire article here.


Stephen Strobbe, PhD, RN, clinical professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, was lead author of a widely endorsed 2017 position statement from the Emergency Nurses Association as well as the International Nurses Society on Addictions that advocates for the ATD option for nurses. These programs are effective in helping nurses overcome substance use disorder and return to valued careers in the healthcare workforce, and should be considered "the standard for recovery," the statement said.


Strobbe pointed out a failure in messaging, a lack of positive stories about nurses who recovered from a substance use disorder. An estimated 25 to 40 million individuals in the U.S. are in remission or recovery, he said. "Success rates of treatment for healthcare providers -- nurses and physicians -- are absolutely the highest. ... The roadmaps are there."

He added, "In some states, there's a mandatory punitive approach, meaning that nurse may never work again. As a result, people are reluctant to self-report, or share concerns or suspicions about a peer or colleague if they believe it might lead to loss of employment, professional license, and healthcare benefits."

"It's only under circumstances in which a nurse is actively retained and her healthcare benefits not stripped away that increase the likelihood she will participate in what is often a rigorous and expensive pursuit to establish and maintain adherence," said Strobbe.


Strobbe, who was also a co-founder and first clinical director of the University of Michigan's Addiction Treatment Services, which includes a special program for health professionals, said enrollment in ATD programs is "tragically small."

"Addiction inherently strives to remain hidden, covert, secretive, and out of view," Strobbe said. It's correctly viewed as a disease, he emphasized, "and when we treat it ostensibly as a criminal offense instead of an illness, little wonder we continue to stumble in the dark."