alchohol and nursing

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    I recently had a short relapse after 8 years of sobriety and went to my health provider for outpatient help. I have also recently been accepted into a nursing (RN) program in CO.

    My concern is re: licensure. The application asks if the applicant has had any problems with alcohol (or drugs) within 5 years. I would, of course, have to answer yes. My question is...would I be denied a license and if I was licensed, will this fact have implications re: malpractice insurance.

    Does the nursing board have access to medical records? I understand the responsibilities of nurses and the importance of protecting the public, but am I to suffer the rest of my life for this mistake??

    I have never been arrested and never had any work problems because of alcohol...never a DUI or anything.

    WHat should I do...and what access does the nursing board have to my records?

    fuzz
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  3. 8 Comments so far...

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    I might receive some flames or flack for my response to your question.

    However, if you want to be admitted into nursing school badly enough, I would not mention your past struggles with alcoholism. You don't have a criminal record and you don't need to admit to something that will hinder your chances of realizing your ultimate dreams.
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    Quote from fuzzie
    I
    My concern is re: licensure. The application asks if the applicant has had any problems with alcohol (or drugs) within 5 years. I would, of course, have to answer yes.

    1- My question is...would I be denied a license?

    2- will this fact have implications re: malpractice insurance.

    3- Does the nursing board have access to medical records?

    4- but am I to suffer the rest of my life for this mistake??


    5- What should I do...

    6- what access does the nursing board have to my records?
    I have heard of Nurses who have been denied jobs because they lied on their application. To some employers, the accusation alone warrants the need to report the incident or details or what took place. In this same vein, if the Board of Nursing asks if you have had a problem with ETOH in the past 5 years and you have, you need to tell the truth, IMHO. So, with that in mind, I will answer your questions that I have itemized.

    1- I do not think so. They will ask the details and it helps for you to say what you have done since, i.e. perhaps yo have gone to some AAA Meetings via Nursing School, learned from the experience as evidenced by, -----, etc.

    2- No, it has never been a question on the NSO application (a popular Nursing Insurance Liability Provider).

    3- I do not know. If you tell the truth you will never have to look over your shoulders.

    4- Suffer? I am not sure what you mean.

    5- Tell the truth and be done with it. Learn from your mistakes and move on. Demonstrate how history will not be repeated.

    6- See answer # 3.

    We all have a history of one sort or another. I do not think it is uncommon to be concerned about what people would think of us, if what we are sharing is unfavorable. It is not what we have been, that is important, but what we are today. It sounds like you have moved beyond your challenges of yesterday; just share with them how you did that and what you have learned.
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    First off, congrsts on staying sober, and also for doing the right thing and getting help when you needed it.

    I would call the State Board of Nursing anonymously, and explain your concern. Maybe they can help you with some info.

    Also, alcholism is considered a disease, and therefore, employers shouldn't be allowed to discriminate against you. I wouldn't lie (because as the previous poster said--you'll get caught eventually), but I don't think you need to advertise it either.

    Good luck with it. I wish you the best in your program, and your career.
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    Thank you guys.

    I don't feel that I should advertise, but I do feel that, as Night says...tell the truth and you won't have to look over your shoulder. Not to mention that one of the precepts of the AA program is 'rigorous honesty.' I honestly cannot imagine that if I self-reported and let them know how important it all is with me...Nursing school and career and being sober...that they would deny me a license.

    I just feel that I need to be proactive, and that if they feel they need to monitor me as a student, before I apply for licensure, then I welcome that.

    This is a mid-life career change for me...22 years as a flight attendant with United. The bankruptcy of several years ago (United's) made me reconsider the idea of nursing school, which I had felt would be a good career for me.

    I look forward to being of service to those who really need it...but I also have my eyes open re: nursing shortage and those frustrations...and the endless paperwork and technical side of the job.

    I think I'm on the right track with disclosure...I appreciate hearing any more that anyone has to offer re: this ethical dilemma...and I thank you in advance.

    Night...what I meant by suffer, is am I going to have to pay for this mistake the rest of my life by being denied practicing as a nurse. Looking at it again, I guess it is overly dramatic and vague....Thanks again.
  8. 0
    Quote from fuzzie
    Thank you guys.


    I look forward to being of service to those who really need it...but I also have my eyes open re: nursing shortage and those frustrations...and the endless paperwork and technical side of the job.

    I think I'm on the right track with disclosure...I appreciate hearing any more that anyone has to offer re: this ethical dilemma...and I thank you in advance.

    Night...what I meant by suffer, is am I going to have to pay for this mistake the rest of my life by being denied practicing as a nurse. Looking at it again, I guess it is overly dramatic and vague....Thanks again.
    You are welcome fuzzie and... Welcome to the largest Nursing website for Nurses, internationally, that is proactive and supportive.

    In regards to carrying this over to minimizing your options... I do not think so; I would bet on that.

    Happy posting! You will find, in my signature line, links to the Student Nursing Forum for additional help and support.
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    Hi, fuzzie.........

    I, too, am a recovering alcoholic with 14 years and 10 months' sobriety under my belt. I can't count the number of 'dry drunks' I've had over the years, during which I did everything wrong EXCEPT take a drink, so believe me, I can understand what makes people fall off the wagon after years of staying sober. The trick is analyzing what caused the fall, and learning how to avoid similar circumstances in the future.

    As you stated yourself, rigorous honesty is the only way to make things right, and it starts with being honest with ourselves first of all. We understand that the poor choices we made in the past may have some bearing on our future, and knowing that we may have to pay a price for those choices, we still choose to tell the truth.

    Years ago, when I was in pre-nursing classes, I attended a weekend seminar on my college's nursing program that was headed by the program director; at that time I'd been sober for only a couple of years, and I was terrified that my problem would prevent me from pursuing my dream of a nursing career. But I had to know........there was no sense in spending thousands of dollars and wasting four years of my life if I was going to be denied licensure because of my alcoholism. So I went right up to the program director, looked her in the eye, and asked her if my history would be a factor in my pursuit of a nursing career.

    "How long since you stopped drinking?" she asked with great interest.

    "A little over two years", I said.

    "And do you think it will be a problem for you in the future?"

    "No.......but if it even looks like it might be, I know to get help."

    "Then if it's not a problem for you, it won't be a problem for us---OR the Board of Nursing," said the director, shaking my hand and smiling.

    That lady turned out to be my biggest supporter during not only my years in the program, but throughout my career thus far, and even today she is one of my best friends. I knew I was taking a calculated risk by opening up to her---after all, she was the one who decided who did and who did NOT get into the nursing program---but honesty was, indeed, the best policy, and I have never had a single problem with my BON or any place I've ever been employed in regards to my past.

    I wish you all the best in your return to sobriety as well as your pursuit of a career in nursing. Work your program, be honest, and do what you know needs to be done.........remember, you succeeded in remaining sober for many years, and you can do it again.
  10. 0
    Quote from fuzzie
    I recently had a short relapse after 8 years of sobriety and went to my health provider for outpatient help. I have also recently been accepted into a nursing (RN) program in CO.

    My concern is re: licensure. The application asks if the applicant has had any problems with alcohol (or drugs) within 5 years. I would, of course, have to answer yes. My question is...would I be denied a license and if I was licensed, will this fact have implications re: malpractice insurance.

    Does the nursing board have access to medical records? I understand the responsibilities of nurses and the importance of protecting the public, but am I to suffer the rest of my life for this mistake??

    I have never been arrested and never had any work problems because of alcohol...never a DUI or anything.

    WHat should I do...and what access does the nursing board have to my records?

    fuzz
    Fuzzie,

    Having worked as an attorney and in hospital administration, I can answer some of your questions. There are a number of RNs who have histories of alcohol or drug abuse in their pasts; it does not automatically disqualify them from holding their RN license nor from working as a clinical nurse. The board of nursing's duty is to protect the public from nurses who are disabled as a result of current substance abuse, and healthcare providers have a duty to protect patients from disabled caregivers.

    You need to be completely honest in your application to the board of nursing. They will determine when the time comes whether you are currently fit to be licensed. If by chance you are not deemed fit, they should give you guidance on what you need to do to become fit in their eyes. (And FYI, please be aware that there is a nursing-board affiliated recovery program).

    Can the board access your medical records? Yes they can, as part of their investigation into your fitness to practice nursing. The fact that you sought out treatment/support from your healthcare provider works in your favor as you have been proactive about your condition.

    I will bring something to your attention that you should consider in determining whether nursing is the career for you, which is the access you will have as an RN to controlled drugs. People with your condition can develop multi-substance abuse problems, and many, many more nurses get into trouble from misappropriating controlled drugs for their own use than do nurses affected by alcohol on the job.

    Bottom line: the board of nursing isn't out to get you, they will work with you. But should you find yourself dipping into controlled drugs at work, it's a fast track trip to termination of employment, prompt notice to the board of nursing by the employer, and notification to the DEA and possibly local police of controlled substance theft and misuse.

    I hope this helps, and all best wishes to you.
    Holly, RN, BSN, JD
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    Thanks for your reply Holly. I don't have any concerns about controlled substances. I just can't see myself ever engaging in that type of behavior. That may be a concern for the BON however.

    I spoke to a nurse at one of my AA meetings the other day and she told me that I need to go to the Peer support committee person at the BON. She feels that I am in a good position (timing wise), as their program is a year duration and by then I will still have another year of school. Either way...in this matter, there is no doubt in me now that self-disclosure is the way to go, come what may. The high road (so to speak) is the only road to freedom.


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