Ohio Board of Nursing Alternative Program: Underutilized by the Ohio Board of Nursing and Often a Bad Option for Nurses

Many nurses who realize they have a chemical dependency problem consider applying for the Ohio Board of Nursing’s Alternative Program for Chemical Dependency. The Alternative Program is a program designed as an alternative to public discipline for the Board to monitor nurses who suffer from chemical dependency issues who want to obtain treatment.

The Alternative Program could be an excellent option for nurses who know they need treatment in which to obtain treatment and not have it publically registered as “discipline” on their Ohio license. However, nurses should be aware of the following:

Limited Eligibility

Ohio Administrative Code 4723-6-02(B) prohibits a nurse from participating in the Alternative Program if the Board determines that the nurse’s compliance cannot be effectively monitored. This rule also specifies at least 12 different reasons why the Board can refuse to permit a nurse to participate in the Alternative Program.

Limited Admission

As of June 30, 2014, there were only 73 active cases in the Alternative Program (source: June 30, 2014 Nursing Board Annual Report). In Fiscal Year 2014, the Board reported that it mailed out 41 applications, received 32 completed applications, and admitted only 14 applicants.

License Inactivation

Most nurses are not aware that to even be considered for admission to the Alternative Program, they must inactivate their nursing licenses. Unfortunately, being denied admission to the Alternative Program does not automatically reactivate the nurse’s license. Instead, the nurse must request that his or her license be reactivated, a process for which there is also no timeline imposed on the Board. In our practice, we have seen nurses wait for months after having been denied admission to the Alternative Program before the Board re-activates their license.

Application Process

Alternative Program applicants must also complete a rigorous application detailing their chemical dependency history, including diagnoses and treatment, relapses, and related agency or law enforcement involvement. In addition, the applicant must undergo a complete chemical dependency evaluation and authorize the disclosure of all records related to the evaluation to the Board. There is no timeline imposed upon the Board for deciding whether to admit an applicant to the Alternative Program. Many applicants are denied admission without explanation.

Limited Confidentiality

In our experience, if a nurse is denied entry into the Alternative Program or is terminated from the Alternative Program, the Board uses the information that the nurse disclosed to the Board in the Alternative Program application to form the basis of a public disciplinary action against the nurse. Although the Alternative Program is described as a confidential program, there are limits to this confidentiality and many nurses are unaware of these limitations.

Rigorous Requirements

Based on the Alternative Program agreements we have reviewed, the Board imposes rigorous requirements on the nurse participating in the Alternative Program, including but not limited to monitoring periods sometimes in excess of monitoring periods we have seen in public disciplinary matters.

Conclusion 

Prior to even requesting an Alternative Program Application from the Ohio Board of Nursing, consider obtaining the advice of experienced legal counsel to help you determine how best to proceed in your case.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or about the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, please feel free to contact one of the attorneys at Collis Law Group, LLC at 614-486-3909. You may also look for more information at http://www.collislaw.com.

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