Physician illness and impairment exist on a continuum with illness typically preceding an impairment. Illness is the presence of a disease. Impairment is a functional classification which exists on a continuum of severity and can change over time rather than being a static.
The AAFP defines a physician as impaired when the physician lacks the ability to exercise prudent medical judgment and/or the ability to practice with reasonable skill and safety resulting in jeopardy to patient care or patient safety.
AAFP members who are participating in educational, treatment and/or behavioral modification programs for impaired physicians will be supported by the AAFP and not be excluded from membership solely because of their participation in such programs. This policy does not prevent restriction or revocation of AAFP membership and its privileges if the member fails to meet membership requirements as specified in the Bylaws. The AAFP encourages state and local medical society efforts to provide programs and resources (e.g., referral services, support groups) for impaired physicians. (1987) (DEC2020BOD)