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.

 

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Ohio Board of Nursing – Mandatory Disqualifying Offenses

Prior to going through the time, effort and expense of attending nursing school you should know if you are eligible to be licensed as a nurse if you have convicted of a crime.

Under Ohio Revised Code (“ORC”) Section 4723.092, there are certain offenses, for which individuals are ineligible for licensureORC Section 4723.092 provides:

“An individual is ineligible for licensure under section 4723.09 of the Revised Code or issuance of a certificate under section 4723.651, 4723.75, 4723.76, or 4723.85 of the Revised Code if a criminal records check conducted in accordance with section 4723.091 of the Revised Code indicates that the individual has been convicted of, pleaded guilty to, or had a judicial finding of guilt for either of the following:

(A) Violating section 2903.01, 2903.02, 2903.03, 2903.11, 2905.01, 2907.02, 2907.03, 2907.05, 2909.02, 2911.01, or 2911.11 of the Revised Code;

(B) Violating a law of another state, the United States, or another country that is substantially similar to a law described in division (A) of this section.”

Licensure under ORC Section 4723.09 applies to licensure by examination to practice as a registered nurse or as a licensed practical nurse, or (ii) by endorsement to practice nursing as a registered nurse or as a licensed practical nurse.  The certificate referred to in ORC Section 4723.651 is a medication aide certificate.  The certificate referred to in ORC Section 4723.75 is a certificate to practice as a dialysis technician.  The certificate referred to in ORC Section 4723.76 is a certificate to practice as a dialysis technician intern.  The certificate referred to in ORC Section 4723.85 is a community health worker certificate.

An individual who has been convicted of, pleaded guilty to, or has a judicial finding of guilt for violation of any of the following offenses, or for violating a law of another state, the United States, or another country that is substantially similar to any of the following offences, is ineligible for licensure by examination or by endorsement to practice nursing as a registered nurse or as a licensed practical nurse in Ohio, or for a medication aide certificate, a dialysis technician certificate, a dialysis technician intern certificate, or a community health worker certificate in Ohio:

ORC Sections:

2903.01 – Aggravated Murder

2903.02 – Murder

2903.03 – Voluntary Manslaughter

2903.11 – Felonious Assault

2905.01 – Kidnapping

2907.02 – Rape

2907.03 – Sexual Battery

2907.05 – Gross Sexual Imposition

2909.02 – Aggravated Arson

2911.01 – Aggravated Robbery

2911.11 – Aggravated Burglary

If you have been convicted of a crime that is Not on this list, you will still be required to disclose the conviction on  your application for licensure. The Nursing Board will review each application on a case by case basis and determine if you will be granted a license.

Even if you have been convicted of a crime NOT listed above, the Nursing Board may choose to deny you an Ohio nursing license or may issue you a license on probation or require you to submit to a period of random drug testing when first licensed. Unfortunately, the Nursing Board will not determine if your license will be denied or limited until you complete nursing school and submit an application. So, if you have a conviction on your record, you should carefully consider whether you want to attend nursing school.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or the Ohio Board of Nursing, contact one of the attorneys at the Collis Law Group LLC at 614-486-3909 or go to our website at http://www.collislaw.com for more information.

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.

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.

Alternative Program for Chemically Dependent Nurses

In Ohio, nurses who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction or abuse should immediately seek treatment at an authorized chemical dependency treatment facility.  However, nurses are often concerned about voluntarily seeking treatment because they do not know what effect, if any, treatment will have on their nursing license.

Fortunately, for Ohio nurses, the Ohio Board of Nursing has established the Alternative Program for Chemically Dependent Nurses.  This is a confidential program that allows eligible nurses to enter into a monitoring contract with the Nursing Board. Under the contract, the nurse is required to complete the recommendations of a treatment program, completely abstain from drugs and alcohol and submit to random drug screens generally for a period of five years.     A full outline of the program can be found at: http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4723-6

Not all impaired nurses are eligible for the program. To be eligible, a nurse must hold a valid Ohio nursing license, submit an application for enrollment in the Board’s confidential program, submit to a chemical dependency assessment, and then follow all treatment recommendations. http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4723-6-02 Eligible nurses may be required to place their nursing license on inactive status for six months at the beginning of treatment and they will be required to submit to random drug screens and attend weekly AA or NA meetings for five years.  This may seem like a long period of time to submit to monitoring, a chemically impaired nurse, is permitted to return to the practice of nursing while participating in the confidential program after six months of clean screens.

What can make a nurse ineligible for the program?  Nurses who are prescribed controlled substances by their physicians; who have a dual diagnosis with another medical or psychiatric condition; or who have completed drug and alcohol treatment two or more times in the past, may not be eligible for this program. http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4723-6-02

The Alternative Program is confidential. If you are accepted, your participation will not be considered “discipline” by the Nursing Board. There will be no notation on the Board’s website that you are participating in the program and you will not be listed in the Nursing Board’s Momentum publication as a participant in this program. In addition, if you successfully complete the program, you will not be reported to the National Practitioner’s Data Bank . http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4723-6-04

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to email me at beth@collislaw.com or call me at 614-486-3909.