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What is CANDO?

Substance abuse, whether it involves alcohol and/or drugs, is indisputably at frightening levels in this country. Those in the nursing profession are at particular risk for abuse, in part because of their highly-stressful jobs and also because of their access to prescription drugs.

Untreated substance abuse can be dangerous not only for the nurses suffering from it, but for the patients in their care. A mistake that causes harm or worse to a patient or even places them at risk can endanger a nurse's license and the career that nurse has studied and trained so hard for.

Like most state nursing boards, the Arizona State Board of Nursing has a program designed to provide an alternative to disciplinary measures and to help nurses recover from substance abuse. It's called the Chemically Addicted Nurses Diversion Option, or CANDO. According to the nursing board's "Frequenty Asked Questions" about CANDO, it's purpose is "to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public through the early detection, treatment and monitoring of substance dependent nurses."

Nurses licensed in Arizona may refer themselves to CANDO. They may also enter the program after a complaint or prior to an investigation. Complaints may come from colleagues, employers, patients, pharmacies, regulatory agencies or law enforcement. However, one of the requirements is that the nurse acknowledge the substance abuse issue. Participation in the program is voluntary.

For a nurse to be eligible for CANDO, he or she may not have done any of the following:

  • Caused harm, either to a patient or anyone else
  • Been disciplined by any state licensing board
  • Participated in the illegal distribution, sale or trafficking of drugs

Nurses who participate in CANDO agree to be monitored for at least three years to help ensure recovery and prevent relapses, which are all too common. They agree to participate in random drug screening. They also agree to abstain from alcohol and all potentially addictive drugs. In addition to their treatment, they must participate in 12 step and peer support groups.

Nurses in CANDO will have some restrictions and added supervision. Employers will be notified of their participation in the program.

Diversion programs can help nurses get the treatment they need before their addiction causes them to harm someone and ruin their careers. While seeking help is never easy, the alternative could be hurting or killing someone in your care and potentially significant civil and criminal legal ramifications.

Source: Arizona State Board of Nursing, "CANDO Program - Frequently Asked Questions," accessed June 01, 2018

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