Whether you are still in nursing school, just graduated from nursing school or seeking new employment as a nurse you will likely need take a drug test as part of the pre-employment process. Also, it is not uncommon for nurses and other healthcare providers to submit to random drug testing even after they are employed. Some nurses are taking illicit drugs and it should come as no surprise if they fail their drug test. However, there are individuals who are shocked to find out that they have failed a drug test because they are not knowingly taking any illicit drugs. Some nurses may have false positives on drug tests for various reasons not related to drug abuse. One common way that nurses fail drug tests is when they take prescription drugs that may contain prohibited drugs as part of the formula. For example, some drugs may contain a very small percentage of methamphetamine. Nurses who take prescription drugs without a prescription or any legitimate medical reason for using the drug can also subject your license to discipline.
If you have a legitimate problem with drugs or alcohol the Board of Nursing might require you to attend rehabilitation center or treatment facility. If you fail your drug test many hospitals require the nurse to self-report to the Intervention Project for Nurses (“IPN”). If you choose not to self-report they will likely report you. You should speak with a health law attorney to determine whether self-reporting to the IPN is the right decision for you. You should review your hospital’s policies and procedures manual to determine how the hospital handles these types of matters internally. The manual should also inform you of whether IPN reporting is mandatory or voluntary.
The IPN was created by the Florida Legislature and is the only case management program recognized by the Board of Nursing. The IPN is comprised of case managers, administrative staff and psychiatrists, psychologists, and addictionologists whose main goal is to determine whether the nurse can safely perform her duties. However, in some instances nurses may pursue private treatment options rather than the IPN. There are several factors that our firm will use to determine whether IPN Florida is the best option available for you to avoid significant licensing restrictions or revocation.
Nurses who submit to the IPN must sign a five year contract agreeing to monitoring, counseling meetings, regular psychiatric visits, random urinalysis testing, mandatory notification to all employers that you are in IPN and the reasons why and prohibitions on drinking alcohol or taking any medication without prior approval by IPN. Typically, it is impossible to depart the IPN program after you’ve agreed to be a part of it without losing your nursing license. In addition to losing your license you will be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) and face exclusion from Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Many nurses fail the IPN plan because they can’t afford to keep up with its requirements. Nurses are responsible for the costs of drug tests, collection fees, therapy sessions, and visits with addiction professionals. Failure to meet the requirements of the IPN program will result in your name being reported to the Department of Health and formal action will be taken against your license.
If you have failed your drug test you will receive correspondence from the Department of Health requiring you to relinquish your nursing license for a specified period of time. After that time period has expired, you may re-apply for your license and if granted you will be placed on a probationary status. While on probation you may be required to do periodic call-ins for random drug testing. Unfortunately, even after you’ve completed monitoring agreement with the IPN you could still have action taken against your nursing license.
If your attorney is unable to resolve the issue internally a complaint will be filed against you. If a complaint is filed against you will have to present yourself to a hearing at which time there will be a discussion of the evidence by a hearing officer or Probable Cause Panel. These hearings are governed by Florida’ Nurse Practice Act. If you can prove that the allegations against you are not true then the panel or hearing officer will rule in your favor. If you are unsuccessful at the hearing you can appeal the decision through the judicial system.
Before appearing before a Probable Cause Panel, you should obtain several character references, prior negative drug tests, polygraph testing, letter of explanation, letter of apology, and you should complete your own evaluation by a board-certified psychiatrist or addiction specialist. These materials will lessen the severity of the punishment handed down by the panel.
The Board of Nursing may issue a fine, reprimand of your nurse’s license, require evaluation by an IPN approved psychologist or addictionologist, or revocation of your license if the case is severe. Fines for first time offenses range from $250 to $500 and it can also include a suspension of your license and an IPN evaluation. Fines for second offenses include a $500 fine, possible suspension, and IPN evaluation, or a revocation of your license.
DOH investigators typically complete these types of investigations and report their findings within 45 days. If they determine that you were abusing drugs or alcohol the Surgeon General will issue an Emergency Suspension Order (“ESO”). The ESO will suspend your license pending the completion of the proceedings. During this time, the nurse will be unable to practice in Florida and most likely in any other jurisdiction where he holds a license.
It should be noted that I am not your lawyer (unless you have presently retained my services through a retainer agreement). This post is not intended as legal advice, it is purely educational and informational, and no attorney-client relationship shall result after reading it. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice. If you do not have one and would like to retain my legal services please contact me using the information listed above.
All of the information and references made to laws, regulations, and advisory opinions were accurate based on the law as it existed at this time, but laws are constantly evolving. Please contact me to be sure that the law which will govern your business is current. Thank you.