Lorie Brown, Nurse Attorney, and Marc Lopez, Indiana Criminal Attorney, discuss what happens when a Nurse has been arrested, disciplined and/or investigated by an employer. They also discuss the best steps to take to avoid or lessen criminal charges as well as appearing before the Board of Nursing. Some of the other topics include controlled substances diversion, criminal diversion, Office of the Inspector General (OIG) Exclusion List, Nursys.com, ISNAP, Indiana Professionals Recovery Program (“IPRP”), expungement.
As you know, marijuana is legal in 9 states for recreational purposes and in 30 for medical purposes. However, even if it is legal where you live or visit, it may not be legal for you to use as a nurse.
Unfortunately, it stays in your system for a long time and there is no good way to detect marijuana usage. Frequently, I get calls from nurses who had a positive pre-employment screen and subsequently they lost their chance for a job and were reported to the Board.
The best advise that I can give is for you not to use marijuana in any form at all. Your licenses and your livelihood are too important to put at risk for this substance.
Other nurses have claimed they were at a party and unknowingly happened to ingest something like a brownie laced with marijuana. But, to tell the Board that you did not know they contained marijuana “is not a defense.” In fact, “I didn’t know is never a good defense” in any such situation.
If you don’t know for sure what is in an item or who made it, I would advise against having it.
As nurses, we are held to a higher standard than the rest of the public. Even if you go on vacation, don’t partake because it could likely still be in your system upon your return to work.
Marijuana has been touted to be a great stress reliever and nurses certainly have their share of stress. It also can help you sleep. Be careful even with CBD oil, make sure you use only the oil which does NOT have THC in it. There is CBD oil that contains only hemp, the female part of the marijuana plant, which has no THC.
I hope this information helps you to protect your license. I believe that Boards look at the use of marijuana by a nurse is like it being used by an airline pilot. Would you really want to get on a plane knowing that the pilot was using marijuana? Would you trust your child’s safety to a school bus driver or daycare teacher who you knew used marijuana?
This may be opening a proverbial “can of worms” but let me know your thoughts on this topic in the comments below.
As nurses, while we really want to help our patients, we sometimes find that our being helpful can get us into trouble. As you know, we are required to follow tons of rules. We have to watch our professional boundaries to make sure we are not overstepping.
For example, if you work at an assisted living facility where one of your patients needs help getting groceries and you agree to get the items for the patient. This is crossing the line. You are there to provide nursing care and not help the patient with something like that.
I’m aware of what you’re thinking, “You know, I’m just trying to help her out.” But still, that crosses the line and can lead you to trouble.professional boundaries nurses nursing patients
Another scenario is you have a patient who perhaps is constipated and requires Milk of Magnesia. The physician normally prescribes that for all his postop patients but let’s say that, for whatever reason, this order got missed. You go ahead and give the Milk of Magnesia to the patient while fully intending to get an order to cover you.
As much as you wanted to help the patient and relieve their suffering from constipation, this would be practicing medicine without a license.
Don’t fall into the trap; your license is too valuable. It’s a true privilege to be a registered nurse but don’t mess up your career because you felt compassion toward a patient.
Here’s another example: your boyfriend is in pain and you give him one of your own pain medications left over from a surgery you had. As much as you would like to ease his pain, this too is considered practicing medicine without a license.
How about if you were working on a cancer unit and when a patient passes away, the medications are left and not wasted. If you save these for other patients who may not be able to afford these medications, even if ordered, is considered diversion.
If any of these situations cause you concern, I would suggest taking continuing education on ethics and professional boundaries to make sure you are complying with the law. Each one of these nurses thought they were helping people and it turned out to hurt them. Have you run across similar situations? What did you do? I would love to here your thoughts below in the comments.
“I didn’t know,” is a common response when a nurse comes to my office for legal consultation and I’ve just informed them of something of which they were previously unaware. However, if they have erred on some issue, “I don’t know,” will not be a defense.
Here is a list of perhaps the 4 most frequent things that nurses will admit that they did not know.
- An educational teaching is a reprimand. If you are asked on your license renewal if you’ve ever been reprimanded, disciplined or terminated, you must respond with a, “yes.”
- Taking someone else’s prescription is practicing medicine without a license and giving one of your prescription pills to someone else is diversion. As nurses, we know what medications are used to treat what conditions. In my experience, I have dealt with nurses who took pain medications belonging to their spouse or a friend. When they were asked to do a drug screen, the result obviously came up positive for that medication. Even if you have a valid prescription for that medication in the past, it is still considered diversion. Let’s say you were prescribed pain medication after the removal of a wisdom tooth but took it later for another type of pain, that is considered practicing medicine without a license. Take only medications prescribed strictly for you, not for anyone else, and take them for ONLY that specific purpose and time, not later or for some other pain. If you have leftover medication, dispose of them properly at a prescription destruction location.
- If you were terminated from a position, you must include that information on all subsequent job applications. You cannot omit it for, if you do, it would be considered fraud and misrepresentation in obtaining a job. At the bottom of most applications, you will see a statement that you are affirming under the penalty of perjury that you have disclosed all of your nursing positions. Therefore, if you leave out one, that is fraud.
- I have heard from nurses who took CBD oil, had brownies or chocolate which they claimed contained THC saying that follow up urine drug screens came up positive. You are responsible for what goes into your body. If you don’t know the person who gives you a brownie or chocolate, play it safe. DON’T eat it.
Many nurses did not know these problems and find themselves before the Board. Now you know! Did you know these things before reading this? I would love to hear your comments below.
There probably is no one in the country who has not heard the phrase “Anything you say can and will be used against you.” I’ve been familiar with that saying seemingly forever. I always thought that referred only to criminal matters but apparently it now applies to nursing as well.
I have had cases where a nurse jested with an off the cuff remark about something at work. Whether or not it was made as humor, employers seem to be taking these quips seriously resulting in the nurses being terminated.
Many of us have said to ourselves something like “If that patient pushes their call light one more time, I’m going to punch them out!” If you say something like that out loud, you could get yourself into a lot of hot water. Of course, none of us would attack a patient but even saying something like “if I have to take care of that patient again, I’m going to jump off the roof” can and will be used against you. Or “If that charge nurse gives me that assignment again, I’m going to dump my lunch all over her!” Any such off the cuff remarks can and will be used against you.
It’s hard enough to be a nurse with everything we have to deal with, and many times we say things that’s in fun. But, I am here to tell you … be careful!
It is sad that we can’t use our humor in the workplace (nurses certainly have a unique sense of humor) but still, be careful. You never know who is listening or who is going to repeat something that you said, possibly even take it out of context, which will come back to bite you.
It is a shame that we can’t just be ourselves in our jobs, let alone having to be careful with every step we take, everything we do and guard against every word that comes out of our mouth. But, as nurses, we do.
Do you feel that you must be careful of what you say at work? Do you feel that you can speak your mind? Do you feel that you can joke around? I’d love to hear your comments below.