Recently, an article in The Atlanta Journal Constitution detailed how the Georgia Board of Nursing secretly handles more than half of its disciplinary cases. What I gather from the article is that nurses who are put into a monitoring program, as long as they are compliant, will have not have discipline against their license.
The article pointed out that in 2017, the Board has 333 new disciplinary orders. Of that number, 54% were private with just under half of that group being alcohol or drug related. In order for the Board to issue an emergency suspension, the Georgia Attorney General’s office says the nurse must be an imminent threat to the public.
By the time the complaint reaches the Board, the accused nurse has usually already entered rehab and has been viewed as safe.
At one time in Indiana, if a nurse entered into a monitoring program, then no action would be taken against their license as long as they were compliant with the program. However, since that time, the Board has gone 180 on that position and now feels that anyone with a substance abuse problem should be disciplined and have their license placed on probation or suspension. Also, that discipline should be public record for all to see.
Substance abuse is a medical issue. I don’t believe that anyone wakes one morning deciding to abuse drugs. I think there is a part of the brain that craves these substances and there are some people who are more susceptible to substance abuse than others which may indicate the problem could be genetic.
The article continues in discussing other types of Boards and what are considered private vs. public. The Board of Physical Therapy in Georgia, almost all of their orders are private, whereas the Medical Board has only 18% considered to be private.
It would be nice to see some consistency among Boards and states. Just because someone is lucky enough to live in Georgia when they develop their substance abuse problem, versus their peer in Indiana, why should each be treated differently?
I believe everyone deserves a second chance. If a nurse develops a substance abuse problem, is able to successfully participate in the monitoring and is active in their recovery, is it necessary to disclose their medical condition to the public?
However, if they have a relapse, at least they have the initial opportunity and then it can become public record.
Do you believe the public has a right to know if a nurse had a substance abuse problem and is in recovery? Do you think these matters should be private? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
I believe it should be up to the nurse in recovery to disclose this information,IF it would help another nurse that is great if it hinders the nurse in recovery that is not cool and should not be disclosed.There is nothing glamorus about nursing that is a perceived by the public. Nursing school demands your entire time and is very hard and stressful no second chances you have to be perfect without fail. The nursing profession it self is demanding as it should be no mistakes are allowed your dealing with life and death every second.Nurse are human the disease of addiction is real and the education of addiction to the public has a lot to be desired there is not a lot out there . For the purpose of seminars disclosing the addicted nurse with her approval only.For the patients to no the status of weather a nurse is addicted i do not see how it would help i think it would cause more anxiety and confusion for the patient and that in it self hinders the patients recovery and moral so no.it amazes me how every other field can make mistakes and get away with it and no big deal seems to be the norm.We all no in the medical field you can not make a mistake period you have to be perfect once more it is life your dealing with and there is no room for error. So the demands of nurses to be perfect is a given and that in it self is demanding stressful and tough but par for the course.A good nurse goes into nursing to help and be of service not for the money or glamour job that it is not its one of the hardest jobs there is mentally and physically.
I’m an RN working in the field of addiction. I agree on all of the points in your article with the vehement exception of relapse becoming public record. People suffering from addiction are shamed and frightened enough without the threat of being publicly exposed. The right to privacy should have no exceptions. Sometimes relapse happens as an unfortunate part of the recovery struggle. The threat of exposure eliminates any sense of compassion. Society continues to stigmatize addiction like no other illness. Exposure could likely ruin a career or even a life. Let’s work on the helping and compassion piece of this awful problem! Let’s Keep that safety zone of privacy in place while we Support recovery for a reasonable length of time before public record is necessary. As an aside, nursing isn’t the only profession hit hard by addiction. We’re paying a lot of attention to the end results. I believe we need to develop strong self-care programs, promote healthy workplace culture, reduce workload stress, offer nurses the compassion they so freely give away to others. Let’s take steps to help reduce the problem and think possible solutions.
According to the DSM, “opioid dependence” is an axis I disorder diagnosable by a mental health practitioner, thereby making it a mental illness, and part of the patients medical record. It is almost always part of a dual diagnosis, married to another disorder, but none of this should be disclosed publically as it is again part of the medical record.
Collette Mahoney says
I had my license revoked 21 years ago for substance abuse. I entered into rehab and have stayed sober since. To this day I continue to participate in a program of 12 step recovery. However, if you view the report placed with my license in Idaho, you will see my handwritten note from 21 years ago giving the reason for my voluntary surrender of my nursing license. I feel this report continues to remain for all the world to see, as a punitive measure for my disease. No, I do not think that is fair. The reports I submitted to the board were written prior to internet and had I known it would be for public view I would have been more ambiguous in my reason for surrender. Thank you for the article and opportunity to weigh in.
John P Kauchick, RN, BSN says
There is little to no oversight of licensing boards. I challenge you to find one case in the US in which a nurse has had negative licensure action reversed by administrative hearing, ombudsmen or civil court. One state in particular is so notorious for unjust discipline there is a blog site dedicated to posting complaints. Some nurses have privately researched patterns of discipline and the most punitive actions seem to be against whistleblowers contrasted with many instances of light “sentences” seen with patient harm cases. It appears that regulatory capture has occurred. In Texas, the medical board is so powerful it had a judge removed for making a favorable appeal ruling for a whistleblower physician.
LORIE A BROWN, R.N., M.N., J.D. says
Hi John, thanks for your comment. In Indiana, there is a case where a nurse was successfully able to prevent the board from taking action. She took suboxone for chronic pain and they wanted her to get off her medicine and go into monitoring. The problem is the cost to do this is expensive.
I so agree great comments
Melissa naeem says
I do not agree with making this public record
I have read records that disclose very personal information about the nurse such as having borderline personality . I have seen where nurses hardships are posted for public display: being in abusive relationships , death of family members. I have seen communications between the AOG and the nurse posted for all to read.
I can not understand how this can be legal?
How can it be ok that even a nurses address can be on public display? This can be dangerous for a nurse who may have turned to substances as a mental escape for abuse from a spouse.
I find it deeply disturbing that private information about a nurse can be and will be on display .
Melissa naeem says
My continued concern is the safety of the nurses who are reported to the board and OAG.
It can also set many nurses up as easy ” prey” for people who now know what is the weakness or downfall for the nurse.