Yes, you can find a nursing job even if you have been disciplined by the Nursing Board

Each year, hundreds of nurses in Ohio face discipline to their nursing license based on a variety of circumstances ranging from violations of the Nurse Practice Act (R.C. 4734) to being found guilty of a criminal offense (such as a DUI) or for being diagnosed with drug or alcohol abuse or addiction. Often nurses face a temporary suspension of their license or are required to submit to random drug screens or other probationary monitoring terms once their nursing license is reinstated during a probationary period.

Under the Ohio public records law, an Order of the Nursing Board or a Consent Agreement that is negotiated between the nurse and the Nursing Board is a matter of public record. The sanction is noted on the Nursing Board website and the actual Order or Consent Agreement is often loaded on the Nursing Board website for anyone to download and read.

Based on the public nature of Nursing Board disciplinary actions, I am often asked “Will I ever find a job as a nurse in Ohio if I have a disciplinary action against my license?” In general, the answer is “Yes!”

Over the past fifteen years, I have represented hundreds of nurses before the Nursing Board. Based on my experience, even nurses who have received treatment for drug or alcohol abuse or who have been found to have violated the Ohio Nurse Practice Act, which has resulted in suspensions of their licenses, eventually can find employment in the field of nursing once their license has been reinstated. However, it is important to note that securing employment can be more difficult for a nurse who has a limited or restricted license.

I typically find that nurses who are honest with employers and clearly and accurately explain the basis for their disciplinary action, as well as the steps that they have taken to remediate the situation have the best chance of finding employment as a nurse. Employers are generally willing to give disciplined nurses a chance at employment if they believe that the nurse has remedied their situation, that they have taken responsibility for their actions, and that they are honest about their conduct.

To prepare to discuss a Board disciplinary matter with an employer, I always advise clients to prepare a “one minute elevator speech” in which the nurse discloses and addresses the disciplinary action taken. I have found that employers do not like to be blindsided about a disciplinary action after they have already employed an individual or to learn of a disciplinary action in a background check. It’s best to head off any questions that an employer might have about your past and tell them yourself up front.

This blog is intended as general guidance and may not fit your particular situation. As always, if you have any questions about this post or about the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, please email me at Beth@collislaw.com or call me at (614) 486-3909.

Do you have a prescription for that?

In most nursing positions, nurses are subjected to random, unannounced drug screens by their employer. Usually nurses are prepared to provide a drug test as a pre-condition for employment. However, once nurses have been working in a location for a while, they forget that employers may ask them to submit to a drug screen for cause (ie. if there are missing medications), when they are moved to a new unit, or just on a random basis.

If the drug test is positive for an illegal drug, the nurse may face suspension or termination from their job and the positive test result will also be reported to the Ohio Board of Nursing. However, often nurses test positive for prescription medications. If the nurse is able to provide their employer with a copy of a prescription showing that they have been prescribed the medication by their doctor, then it is not a problem. But, in many cases, nurses do not have prescriptions for medications they have taken. On occasion, nurses will take their friends’, spouse’s or kids’ medications, resulting in a positive drug screen.

Testing positive on a drug screen for a medications which has not been  prescribed,  may result in negative ramifications with your employment and your nursing license. The Ohio Board of Nursing regularly takes disciplinary actions against nurses who test positive for prescription medications, which have not been prescribed to them.

I recently spoke to a nurse who told me that her doctor told her to keep any old narcotic medications in her cabinet in case she or another family member might need the medication. This is improper advise. Medications can only be taken by the person who has been prescribed the medication. You can’t just keep a “stash” of prescription medications in your cabinet to be used by anyone who has access to the cabinet.

If you have left over medications, follow appropriate disposal procedures to discard the medication. Do not store unused narcotic medications in an unsecure location where other family members (including teenagers) may have access to the drugs.

Finally for nurses, if you have not been prescribed a medication, you should not ingest it as it may lead to a positive drug screen that may jeopardize your employment and license to practice as a nurse in Ohio.

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

Who makes decisions at the Ohio Board of Nursing?

It’s Board week at the Ohio Board of Nursing. This means that Board members from around the state will meet at the Board offices in Columbus on Thursday, September 20 and Friday, September 21, 2012 to review the official business and make decisions regarding such matters as the implementation or change to a Board rule, granting licenses to nurse applicants, closing or continuing investigations, issuing citation letters to nurses, and ruling on final disciplinary matters against nurses. Ohio Revised Code §4723.06.

The Nursing Board is governed by the Nurse Practice Act, which outlines the powers and duties of the Board members. R.C.§4723. The Board is composed of thirteen Board members: eight are licensed RNs, 4 are licensed LPNs and one is a public member. Board members are not compensated but are reimbursed for their expenses. Board Members are appointed by the Governor and serve four-year terms. O.R.C. §4723.02.

Under the Board’s rules, the Board is only required to meet as often as necessary to carry out its duties. O.A.C. 4723-1-01(D). The Ohio Nursing Board has six regularly scheduled meetings each year. Meetings are typically held the third week in January, March, May, July, September and November.

While the Board members make all final decisions, the daily operations of the Board is managed by an Executive Director, who is also an RN. The Board also has a bevy of attorneys, investigators, licensure specialists, and support personnel that work at the Board office on a daily basis and carry out the daily operations of the Board. In addition, any disciplinary matter that proceeds to an administrative hearing, is prosecuted by an Ohio Assistant Attorney General.

The Board is not governed by a statute of limitations. Therefore, if an investigation is initiated against a nurse or nurse applicant, the Board has no time limit in which it must begin or complete the investigation or license (or deny) the application of an applicant. Investigations and applications for initial licensure can take months before the individual is notified if they will be granted a license or subjected to discipline by the Board.

I am always asked “who makes all the decisions at the Nursing Board?” and “why does it take so long to get through the application or investigation process?”  The short answer is that the Board members make all final decisions.  However, since the Board only meets six times a year, official Board decisions are only issued at those Board meetings.   Therefore, if your case is not presented by the staff to the Board Members to review at a Board meeting, your case will not be acted on until the next board meeting.

The Ohio Nursing Board licenses and monitors thousands of nurses each year. For the vast majority of nurses, they will be issued a license or their license will be renewed quickly and without delay. However, if your license application is subjected to additional scrutiny because of a prior conviction, prior impairment, or action by an other state agency, it can take months to be licensed. Similarly, if you are the subject of a Board investigation, even if your license has been summarily suspended by the Board, it can take months to work through the Board investigative and disciplinary process.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, please call me at (614) 486-3909, email me at beth@collislaw.com or check out my website for more information at www.collislaw.com.

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.

You can be licensed as a nurse in Ohio with a criminal history … depending on the crime

In Ohio, it is possible to be licensed as a nurse even if you have a prior criminal background. However, there are certain crimes that are considered absolute bars to licensure and if convicted of one of these particular crimes, you will be permanently barred from ever being licensed as a nurse in the state of Ohio. Crimes that are an absolute bar to licensure include: Aggravated Murder, Murder, Voluntary Manslaughter, Felonious Assault, Kidnapping, Rape, Sexual Battery, Aggravated Robbery, Aggravated Burglary, Gross Sexual Imposition, and Aggravated Arson.

If you have a prior criminal history that does not include one of the absolute bars listed above, you may attend nursing school and apply for a license in Ohio. You will be required to inform your nursing school at the time of admission of your criminal history and the school can choose whether or not to admit you to their program based on the severity of the crime. However, each school has a different standard for their admission criteria. You should speak to the admissions director at the school prior to applying to determine if your prior criminal history would prevent you from entering the nursing program.

However, completion of a nursing program, even from an accredited nursing school, does not guarantee that you will be licensed as a nurse in Ohio. Even if you have not been convicted of one of the absolute bar listed above, you must disclose your conviction on the application for a nursing license in Ohio. The nursing board reviews all applications in detail and will decide on a case by case basis if they will grant you a license. In considering whether the Ohio Board of Nursing will issue you a license, they will consider factors such as your age at the time of the conviction, whether the conviction involved drugs or alcohol, whether you placed someone else’s life in danger, and whether the conviction involved a minor.

In addition, the Ohio Board of Nursing will not advise you in advance of you attending nursing school whether you will be granted a license. So, if you have a criminal conviction, you do run the risk of attending nursing school and not being licensed in Ohio or being licensed subject to disciplinary action. However, the Board will consider the individual facts in your case and if you have not been convicted of one of the absolute bars listed above, the Board has the authority to grant you a license.

For more information about seeking a license as a nurse in Ohio with a prior criminal history, go the following link at the Board’s website: http://www.nursing.ohio.gov/PDFS/Discipline/CriminalHistory.pdf

As always, 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 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.

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.