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.

Taking medical “waste” for your own personal use is a felony

The Ohio Board of Nursing may discipline a nurse for a wide range of violations from falsification on an application, practicing outside of the scope of their license or chemical substance impairment that prevents the nurse from providing safe nursing care, just to name a few.  However, few violations are more egregious than taking medication from a patient or documenting giving a patient a medication that was not given.  Even the most impaired nurse knows that they must always give their patients the medications that are prescribed to them.

However, many nurses “rationalize’ that they can take the medication waste that is not prescribed to a patient which is just going to be discarded. This is also faulty thinking. Anytime you take medications from a nursing home, hospital or patient, you are committing a crime and could be charged with a felony.  When medical facilities learn that medications are missing, usually the hospital pharmacist or hospital security are called in to conduct an investigation. Nurses can be asked to provide a urine drug screen and if the nurse tests positive for any prescription medication for which they do not have a valid prescription or an illegal street drug,  the results of the drug test are usually turned over to the local prosecutor and/or the Nursing Board. The police can charge the nurse with a variety of felonies including, theft of drugs, deception to obtain illegal drugs, or illegal processing of drug documents.

Some impaired nurses also use their knowledge on prescribing to call in an illegal prescription to a pharmacy. Pharmacists have been trained to keep an eye out for suspicious activities and will often call the “prescribing” physician to verify the prescription. Then, upon finding any irregularities in the prescription, the police will be called to arrest the nurse when she (or he) arrives at the pharmacy to pick up the medication.

Taking medical waste, documenting that you gave a patient a medication when you actually took it yourself or calling in a prescription to a pharmacy for your own personal use, can all lead to being charged with a felony in Ohio and suspension or revocation of your Ohio nursing license.

If you believe you are impaired, you should seek medical treatment immediately. For nurses who voluntarily seek treatment, you might also be eligible for the Ohio Board of Nursing Alternative Program for Impaired Nurses. http://66.161.141.164/oac/4723-6

As always, if you have any questions about this post or questions about the Ohio Board of Nursing in general, feel free to email me at Beth@collislaw.com or call me at 614-486-3909.