Ohio Nurses with Narcotic Restrictions: You CANNOT Observe Waste

A nurse who is the subject of a disciplinary action by the Ohio Board of Nursing may, in certain instances, have one or more restrictions placed on their nursing license.  One type of restriction is a narcotics restriction.

Although the language of a narcotic restriction can and does vary depending on the facts and circumstances of each case, the Ohio Board of Nursing’s narcotic restriction typically provides:

“Unless otherwise approved in advance, in writing, by the board or its’ designee, NURSE shall not administer, have access to, or possess (except as prescribed for NURSE’s use by another so authorized by law who has received a complete copy of this Consent Agreement prior to prescribing for NURSE) any narcotics, other controlled substances, or mood-altering drugs in which NURSE is working in a position that requires a nursing license. In addition, NURSE shall not possess or carry any work keys for locked medication carts, cabinets, drawers, or containers. NURSE shall not count narcotics. NURSE shall not call in or order prescription refills for narcotics, other controlled substances, or mood-altering drugs.”

As stated noted above, a nurse with a narcotics restriction may not count narcotics.  Counting narcotics includes, but is not limited to, observing the waste of unused narcotics by another nurse because observing waste is considered part of the counting process.  If you have a narcotics restriction on your license, you may not observe waste and you should ensure that your employer is aware that your narcotic restriction prohibits you from observing waste before you are in a situation where you are asked to witness another nurse wasting.

Narcotic restrictions can be permanent or temporary.  If the narcotic restriction is permanent, the nurse must comply with the narcotic restriction on a permanent basis, unless the narcotic restriction includes the language, “Unless otherwise approved in advance, in writing, by the board or is designee”.  This language permits the nurse to request the Nursing Board’s approval for a specific exception to the permanent narcotic restriction.

If the narcotic restriction is temporary, the nurse must comply with the narcotic restriction during their entire probationary period or, in certain cases, for a shorter period.  If the temporary narcotic restriction includes the language, “Unless otherwise approved in advance, in writing, by the board or its’ designee”, the nurse may request the Nursing Board’s approval for a specific exception to the temporary narcotic restriction.

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

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Nurses who enter into a Consent Agreement with the Ohio Board of Nursing MUST complete all conditions OR negotiate terms to modify to the Agreement.

A Consent Agreement with the Ohio Board of Nursing is a negotiated contract between the nurse and the Board that specifies the terms and conditions under which a nurse on probation may continue to practice as a nurse and/or seek reinstatement of their license, if suspended. By signing the Consent Agreement, the nurse agrees (among other things) to waive their right to a hearing and to comply with the terms in the Consent Agreement.

Failure to comply with the terms of the Consent Agreement can result in the Nursing Board automatically suspending a nurse’s license to practice in Ohio.

Typically, a Consent Agreement which includes a suspension will outline conditions for a nurse to seek reinstatement of their license or, for a Consent Agreement that includes probation, will place conditions on a nurse’s license. Often, nurses are subjected to random drug testing, are required to attend weekly AA/NA meetings, or complete additional continuing education courses. In some cases, a nurse may have a license limitation that does not allow them to work in certain settings or dispense medications.

Actions including, but not limited to, missing a mental health or chemical dependency examination, failure to check in daily for alcohol or drug screens, or failure to submit to a screen when selected are a few examples of a breach of the Consent Agreement.

Even when unemployed as a nurse, the nurse is still required to comply with the Consent Agreement. For Consent Agreements that include a probationary period, the nurse must actually work in a nursing position for the probation period to count down.

Compliance with a Consent Agreement can be time-consuming and costly. Nurses are often unable to afford the random screens or become frustrated with the lengthy probationary period, especially if they are not working as a nurse.

I am often contacted by nurses who want to stop compliance with the terms of their Consent Agreement because they can no longer afford the random screens or are no longer interested in completing all compliance terms.

A Consent Agreement is a negotiated contract between a nurse and the Nursing Board.  The nurse MUST negotiate alternative terms in writing with the Nursing Board. If the nurse simply stops complying with the Consent Agreement, without first negotiating a written amendment or modification to the Consent Agreement, their license will likely be automatically suspended by the Nursing Board for failure to comply with the Consent Agreement.

To seek an amendment or modification to the Consent Agreement, the nurse must be in full compliance with all probationary terms. Even if in full compliance, the Nursing Board may only agree to place the nurse’s license on indefinite suspension. And if the nurse wants to seek reinstatement of their license in the future, the nurse may be required to complete most if not all of the probationary terms again.

In summary, in order to cease having to comply with the terms and conditions of a Consent Agreement, the nurse must re-negotiate the terms of the Consent Agreement with the Nursing Board and must continue to comply with their Consent Agreement until the Nursing Board agrees in writing to the modified Consent Agreement.

All Consent Agreements must be approved by the full Board, which only meets six times a year. The nurse should expect that it could take up to 8 weeks before the Nursing Board will approve a new Consent Agreement or a modification to a Consent Agreement.  The nurse must continue to comply with their existing Consent Agreement until a new Consent Agreement or modification has been approved in writing by the Nursing Board.

Before making the decision on whether to stop complying with the terms of a Consent Agreement with the Board of Nursing, it is recommended to consult with an attorney. Factors such as the nurse’s financial condition and their desire to practice nursing in the future should be considered.

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

 

Nurses: Marijuana is still Illegal in Ohio, and a Positive Drug Screen could lead to Discipline

Marijuana for medical or recreational purposes is now legal in some states, such as Colorado and Oregon. However, use of marijuana is still illegal in Ohio. If employed as a nurse, you can be subjected to pre-employment, for cause, or random drug tests. If you test positive for marijuana, you may be terminated from your job and may be subjected to discipline by the Ohio Board of Nursing. Chemicals in marijuana, mainly THC, can show on a urine, blood, saliva or hair follicle drug test after 120 or more days, based on usage and other personal factors. (See Samhsa.gov for guidance on drug testing).

According to RC 4723.28(B)(8), it is a disciplinable offense for a nurse to be self-administering or otherwise taking into the body any dangerous drug, as defined in RC 4729.01, in any way that is not in accordance with a legal, valid prescription issued for that individual, or self-administering or otherwise taking into the body any drug that is a Schedule I controlled substance. (Marijuana is defined as a Schedule I substance.)

Courts have held that an employee is not protected from a wrongful discharge even if they are lawfully taking medical marijuana, and test positive at work. (Coats v. Dish Network). This is because marijuana is unlawful under Federal Law, which the court determined prevails in this situation.

The Ohio Board of Nursing routinely takes disciplinary action against a nurse who tests positive for marijuana, even in cases where the nurse has consumed marijuana in a legal jurisdiction. Therefore, it is important for Ohio nurses to be aware of the risks they take if consuming marijuana, whether it be legally or illegally. Testing positive on a drug screen may result in a disciplinary action against your nursing license.

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