Nurses, if you drink this holiday weekend … take a cab home.

At the start of this holiday weekend, I wanted to reach out to Ohio medical professionals and remind them that their behavior is of concern to the Ohio Board of Nursing whether at work or at home. If you venture out this weekend to an end of summer holiday party and knock back a few beers or a couple of jello shots, take a cab home.

Each year, dozens (if not hundreds) of nurses receive alcohol related traffic violations. DUIs, OVIs, reckless operation charges, and any alcohol related misdemeanor may lead to discipline taken by the Ohio Board of Nursing against your nursing license. You don’t have to be “drunk at work” or fail a breathalyzer test on the way to work for the Nursing Board to be concerned about your ability to practice safely as a nurse in Ohio. Alcohol related traffic violations can lead to your nursing license being placed on probation and may subject you to random drug screens and Nursing Board monitoring for lengthy periods of time. The severity of the charges may also lead to suspension of your Nursing license.

I have written about this issue in the past. See my June 11 post about the requirement to disclose alcohol related convictions on your renewal application; my May 25 post about not being able to consume alcohol in ANY form if you are being monitored by the Board, and my April 30 post featuring the top three reasons the Nursing Board takes disciplinary action against a nurse (alcohol and drug usage being one of the top three reasons for Board discipline).

If you are going to “party” this weekend, be smart about it. Don’t get behind the wheel of the car if you have been drinking. Don’t risk your professional license.Take a cab home.

If you have any questions about this post or the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, please feel free to contact me at (614) 486-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com.

What part of NO ALCOHOL don’t you understand?

Nurses who suffer from substance abuse or substance addiction and who are monitored by the Ohio Board of Nursing in either the confidential Alternative Program for Chemically Dependent Nurses Program or pursuant to a Consent Agreement or other public disciplinary action, are typically required to submit to random (often observed) toxicology drug screens. The screens will detect not only alcohol content in the body but can even detect the metabolites of alcohol (evidence that the body is processing or breaking down alcohol). The tests are very sensitive virtually any consumption or exposure to alcohol  in the 3-4 days proceeding such consumption or exposure will be detected.

Prior to initiating the screening process, nurses are advised that they may not consume any alcohol or any substances that may contain alcohol. They are clearly warned to not consume any alcohol, including: beer, wine, liquor, “non-alcoholic” beers and cooking wines. They are also warned to stay away from topical ointments that may contain alcohol and to stay away from cleaning products or aerosols that may contain alcohol. Nurses are usually surprised to learn that many cleaning products contain alcohol and they do not realize that hand sanitizers (the same kinds routinely used in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, etc.), aftershave, air fresheners (Febreze), contain some amount of alcohol.

Despite this requirement, nurses routinely test positive for alcohol or for the metabolites of alcohol in their system (positive ETG test).   Ethyl Glucuronide (ETG) is a direct metabolite of alcoholic beverages (ethanol).  Its presence in urine may be used to detect recent alcohol consumption, even after ethanol is no longer measurable.  The presence of ETG in urine is a definitive indicator that alcohol was ingested.

When questioned, many will initially deny use. Then, they will try to argue that they used a hand sanitizer or over the counter medications, which may have resulted in a positive alcohol or ETG drug screen.

However, while the tests (specifically the ETG test) are very sensitive and can detect consumed alcohol, the cut off for the screening is above the level that would test positive in an “accidental” exposure. Generally, merely cleaning your house with Lysol or spraying your couch pillows with Febreze should not result in a positive screen. However, consuming Nyquil for a cold will result in a positive screen.

As always, if you have any questions about the Ohio Board of Nursing or this post, please feel free to email me at beth@collislaw.com or call me at 614-496-3909.

What the Nursing Board really cares about ..addiction, lies and convictions

I had the opportunity to speak to a nursing school last week about the role of Ohio Board of Nursing. In preparing for the talk, I knew I would be asked “What is going to get me in trouble with the Nursing Board?”.  I have a pretty good idea of the types of actions that I regularly see investigated by the Board, but I also did a little research and reviewed the last few months’ list of disciplinary actions or proposed actions so I would be ready for this question.

I found, generally, the Nursing Board receives 3000 complaints each year. While the Board investigates all complaints, they only take action against approximately 600 nurses each year.

Half of the nurses disciplined or monitored by the Nursing Board involve cases of nurses who suffer from drug or alcohol abuse or dependency. (see my former post The Alternative Program for Chemically Dependent Nurses)   Many nurses voluntarily seek treatment and then are entitled to participation in the Board’s confidential monitoring program.

But, some nurses find themselves the subject of Board discipline after being found guilty of a DUI, or testing positive on a drug screen through their employer. Last month, the Nursing Board cited several nurses who tested positive at work for illegal street drugs or for medications for which they could not produce a valid prescription (ie. they had been given a prescription drug from a friend or family member)

In addition to actions against nurses who suffer from substance abuse, the Board also takes actions against nurses who have felony convictions and misdemeanors involving moral turpitude.  The Nursing Board recently cited nurses who had been charged with numerous crimes including: child endangering; Medicaid fraud; transporting or possessing a semi-automatic handgun; stealing narcotics; misdemeanor assault; illegal processing of drug documents; theft by deception, just to name a few.

The Board also takes action against nurses who have been disciplined by other state agencies (other state Nursing Boards) and they take actions against nurses for practicing outside of the scope of their license or for failing to disclose to the Board a disciplinary action or conviction from another agency or district (lies).

Most nurses are surprised to learn that the Nursing Board is genuinely concerned about conduct both at work and also outside of work. In addition to discipline related to practice, nurses can be subjected to disciplinary actions for “bad behavior” outside of the work setting. Nurses are routinely the subject of discipline by the Board for DUIs, assault, child abuse, neglect, passing a bad check and other crimes. As professionals, nurses are held to a high standard by the Board while at work and after work.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, please feel free to email me at beth@collislaw.com or call me at 614-486-3909.

Ohio LPNs – time to renew your license!

This month, Ohio LPNs will be mailed instructions by the Ohio Board of Nursing on how to renew their LPN license on-line.  The Board will mail the instructions to the address that you previously provided to the Board as your address of record. If you do not timely receive the instructions, you should contact the Board immediately.

If you do not want to renew on-line, you may request to have a paper renewal form mailed to you. To be sent a paper renewal form:

  • send a written request to: Ohio Board of Nursing, 17 S. High Street, Suite 400, Columbus, Ohio 43215, attn: Renewal; or
  • fax a request to the Board at 614-466-0388, attn: Renewal;
  • or, email the Board at renewal@nursing.ohio.gov

Renewal applications received after July 1 will be assessed a $50.00 late fee. If you do not renew by August 31, the license will lapse.http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4723-7-09

Whether you choose to renew online or to complete the paper renewal form, it is important that you take a few quiet minutes to complete the form on your own!   Allowing others to renew your license for you or not taking the time to carefully read and accurately and completely respond to the questions on the renewal can be a costly mistake.

By signing the renewal application you are certifying to the Nursing Board that all information contained in the application is correct and complete. The Nursing Board reviews all original applications for licensure and renewal applications very seriously and will take a disciplinary action against a licensee who fails to provide the Board with correct and complete information.

In addition, any questions in which you have to answer “yes” to will require you to provide a short written explanation. You should take time to provide a clear and careful response. Don’t minimize the incident or fail to take responsibility for your actions, as this could be to used as an aggravating factor if the Board chooses to impose a discipline.

The Nursing Board routinely suspends or revokes licensees who provide  a false response to a renewal question.  It is always better to provide clear, honest responses to the questions than to provide information that might be misleading or may lead to more questions by the Board.   If you do not understand a question, you may call the Nursing Board staff and ask  – however, the staff is unable to give legal advice.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or another question involving the Ohio Board of Nursing, feel free to email me at Beth@collislaw.com.

Alternative Program for Chemically Dependent Nurses

In Ohio, nurses who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction or abuse should immediately seek treatment at an authorized chemical dependency treatment facility.  However, nurses are often concerned about voluntarily seeking treatment because they do not know what effect, if any, treatment will have on their nursing license.

Fortunately, for Ohio nurses, the Ohio Board of Nursing has established the Alternative Program for Chemically Dependent Nurses.  This is a confidential program that allows eligible nurses to enter into a monitoring contract with the Nursing Board. Under the contract, the nurse is required to complete the recommendations of a treatment program, completely abstain from drugs and alcohol and submit to random drug screens generally for a period of five years.     A full outline of the program can be found at: http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4723-6

Not all impaired nurses are eligible for the program. To be eligible, a nurse must hold a valid Ohio nursing license, submit an application for enrollment in the Board’s confidential program, submit to a chemical dependency assessment, and then follow all treatment recommendations. http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4723-6-02 Eligible nurses may be required to place their nursing license on inactive status for six months at the beginning of treatment and they will be required to submit to random drug screens and attend weekly AA or NA meetings for five years.  This may seem like a long period of time to submit to monitoring, a chemically impaired nurse, is permitted to return to the practice of nursing while participating in the confidential program after six months of clean screens.

What can make a nurse ineligible for the program?  Nurses who are prescribed controlled substances by their physicians; who have a dual diagnosis with another medical or psychiatric condition; or who have completed drug and alcohol treatment two or more times in the past, may not be eligible for this program. http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4723-6-02

The Alternative Program is confidential. If you are accepted, your participation will not be considered “discipline” by the Nursing Board. There will be no notation on the Board’s website that you are participating in the program and you will not be listed in the Nursing Board’s Momentum publication as a participant in this program. In addition, if you successfully complete the program, you will not be reported to the National Practitioner’s Data Bank . http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4723-6-04

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me at beth@collislaw.com or call me at 614-486-3909.

Hello Ohio Nurses!

Hi, in my practice as an attorney I exclusively represent professionals before their state licensing boards in Ohio.  As a former Ohio Assistant Attorney General, I am familiar with the disciplinary process of Boards such as the State Medical Board of Ohio, Ohio Board of Nursing, Ohio Board of Pharmacy, Ohio Chiropractic Board and many, many more licensing agencies.

I regularly help applicants apply for a professional license in Ohio or wade through the disciplinary process. I have started this blog to answer many of the common questions that I receive in my practice on a weekly basis from nurses throughout Ohio. Such as, “should I apply for a license in Ohio if I have a criminal conviction on my record?” “what will happen with my professional license if I get a DUI?” “what should I do if contacted by a board or criminal investigator?”. I hope over  the next few months to answer many of your questions.