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 Nurses: Failure to Document May Result in Disciplinary Action Against Your Nursing License

The importance of documentation in the nursing field cannot be underestimated.

The Ohio Board of Nursing is authorized to discipline a licensee for (among other things) failure to practice in accordance with acceptable and prevailing standards of safe nursing care.  Failure to document the administration or otherwise account for the disposition of controlled substances that the Nurse removed from the Pyxis, or other place where controlled substances are stored, may also be the basis for the Nursing Board to discipline a nurse.

In certain cases, the Nursing Board will offer the Nurse a Consent Agreement as an alternative to an Administrative Hearing.  A Consent Agreement allows the Nurse to avoid the time, worry, and expense of an Administrative Hearing.  Nurses do not need to sign a Consent Agreement. It is always a good practice to read a proposed Consent Agreement very carefully.  We have seen Consent Agreements that are based on allegations of failure to document the administration or otherwise account for the disposition of controlled substances. In many cases, the Consent Agreement requires  (in some cases, lasting years)  random drug screening, narcotic restrictions, and practice restrictions, even when there was no history of drug use or abuse by the Nurse.

If the nurse does not sign a proposed Consent Agreement, he or she always has the right to go to an Administrative Hearing.  The nurse can present evidence that there is no history of drug use or abuse and that the nurse has an otherwise excellent history of employment.  The Board’s attorney is going to present its evidence that the nurse failed to document the administration or otherwise account for the disposition of controlled substances that were removed.

It is imperative to completely, accurately, and timely document the administration or disposition (waste) of controlled substances or other drugs! The Nursing Board may place a nurse on probation and subject them to multiple probationary terms, even if there is no evidence that they suffer from chemical dependency and even if there is no evidence of diversion.

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.

Ohio LPNs – time to renew your license!

This month, Ohio LPNs will be mailed instructions by the Ohio Board of Nursing on how to renew their LPN license on-line.  The Board will mail the instructions to the address that you previously provided to the Board as your address of record. If you do not timely receive the instructions, you should contact the Board immediately.

If you do not want to renew on-line, you may request to have a paper renewal form mailed to you. To be sent a paper renewal form:

  • send a written request to: Ohio Board of Nursing, 17 S. High Street, Suite 400, Columbus, Ohio 43215, attn: Renewal; or
  • fax a request to the Board at 614-466-0388, attn: Renewal;
  • or, email the Board at renewal@nursing.ohio.gov

Renewal applications received after July 1 will be assessed a $50.00 late fee. If you do not renew by August 31, the license will lapse.http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4723-7-09

Whether you choose to renew online or to complete the paper renewal form, it is important that you take a few quiet minutes to complete the form on your own!   Allowing others to renew your license for you or not taking the time to carefully read and accurately and completely respond to the questions on the renewal can be a costly mistake.

By signing the renewal application you are certifying to the Nursing Board that all information contained in the application is correct and complete. The Nursing Board reviews all original applications for licensure and renewal applications very seriously and will take a disciplinary action against a licensee who fails to provide the Board with correct and complete information.

In addition, any questions in which you have to answer “yes” to will require you to provide a short written explanation. You should take time to provide a clear and careful response. Don’t minimize the incident or fail to take responsibility for your actions, as this could be to used as an aggravating factor if the Board chooses to impose a discipline.

The Nursing Board routinely suspends or revokes licensees who provide  a false response to a renewal question.  It is always better to provide clear, honest responses to the questions than to provide information that might be misleading or may lead to more questions by the Board.   If you do not understand a question, you may call the Nursing Board staff and ask  – however, the staff is unable to give legal advice.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or another question involving the Ohio Board of Nursing, feel free to email me at Beth@collislaw.com.