How a DUI may affect your Ohio nursing license

Happy New Year!

Over this holiday weekend, I have received calls from several health care professionals who have been charged with a DUI inquiring how or whether a criminal charge may affect their license to practice as a nurse in Ohio.

First, it is important to understand that the Ohio Nursing Board may take a disciplinary action against a nurse for certain criminal convictions, even if the charge does not relate to the practice of nursing. Second, it is important to understand that a DUI is not considered a “minor traffic violation”.  A DUI, even if reduced to a lesser offense, such as disorderly conduct or reckless operation of a vehicle, is still of concern to the Nursing Board and may result in a sanction to the nurse’s professional license.

If you have been charged with a DUI, you should seek competent legal counsel to assist you through the criminal case process.  In certain instances, you may be accepted into a treatment program which, if successfully completed, may result in no criminal conviction or the charges may be reduced to a less serious offense.

A conviction for a DUI or certain other criminal offenses may result in negative consequences for your professional license.  While you are not required to immediately notify the Ohio Nursing Board that you have been charged with or convicted of a criminal offense, you may need to disclose the criminal matter when you renew your professional license, depending on the matter.  At the time you renew your license, you should consider hiring legal counsel to assist you to accurately respond to the questions on the renewal application and to prepare any documents necessary or required by the renewal application.

The way in which the Ohio Nursing Board handles your criminal case will depend on a variety of factors.  In determining what sanction, if any, that the Ohio Nursing Board might impose, the Ohio Nursing Board will consider factors including but not limited to the following:

  • the seriousness of the matter;
  • whether the matter relates to your professional practice;
  • whether the matter is your first criminal matter; and
  • whether you fully cooperate and complete any requirements of the Court.

Depending on the circumstances of your matter, the Ohio Nursing Board can order the nurse to submit to a chemical dependency assessment to determine if treatment is needed and/or can require the nurse to submit to a period of random drug testing.  Additionally,  the Ohio Nursing Board has the authority to suspend a nurse’s license and/or can place the nurse on probation.

If you need treatment, you should obtain comprehensive treatment. The Ohio Nursing Board does not maintain an approved list of treatment providers.  The nurse may choose any treatment center that will provide them with the treatment needed for their addiction.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or about the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, please contact one of the attorneys at the Collis Law Group at 614-486-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com.

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What part of NO ALCOHOL don’t you understand?

Nurses who suffer from substance abuse or substance addiction and who are monitored by the Ohio Board of Nursing in either the confidential Alternative Program for Chemically Dependent Nurses Program or pursuant to a Consent Agreement or other public disciplinary action, are typically required to submit to random (often observed) toxicology drug screens. The screens will detect not only alcohol content in the body but can even detect the metabolites of alcohol (evidence that the body is processing or breaking down alcohol). The tests are very sensitive virtually any consumption or exposure to alcohol  in the 3-4 days proceeding such consumption or exposure will be detected.

Prior to initiating the screening process, nurses are advised that they may not consume any alcohol or any substances that may contain alcohol. They are clearly warned to not consume any alcohol, including: beer, wine, liquor, “non-alcoholic” beers and cooking wines. They are also warned to stay away from topical ointments that may contain alcohol and to stay away from cleaning products or aerosols that may contain alcohol. Nurses are usually surprised to learn that many cleaning products contain alcohol and they do not realize that hand sanitizers (the same kinds routinely used in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, etc.), aftershave, air fresheners (Febreze), contain some amount of alcohol.

Despite this requirement, nurses routinely test positive for alcohol or for the metabolites of alcohol in their system (positive ETG test).   Ethyl Glucuronide (ETG) is a direct metabolite of alcoholic beverages (ethanol).  Its presence in urine may be used to detect recent alcohol consumption, even after ethanol is no longer measurable.  The presence of ETG in urine is a definitive indicator that alcohol was ingested.

When questioned, many will initially deny use. Then, they will try to argue that they used a hand sanitizer or over the counter medications, which may have resulted in a positive alcohol or ETG drug screen.

However, while the tests (specifically the ETG test) are very sensitive and can detect consumed alcohol, the cut off for the screening is above the level that would test positive in an “accidental” exposure. Generally, merely cleaning your house with Lysol or spraying your couch pillows with Febreze should not result in a positive screen. However, consuming Nyquil for a cold will result in a positive screen.

As always, if you have any questions about the Ohio Board of Nursing or this post, please feel free to email me at beth@collislaw.com or call me at 614-496-3909.