Can I get my Florida license back?

by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist) Educator Columnist Innovator Expert Nurse

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Greetings Nurse Beth,

I am an RN with an opiate substance abuse history and previous IPN participation. My license has been null and void since 2011. I had 3 or 4 return to work contracts from 2003-2011, the longest of which I made 4.5 years, but I relapsed after my mother passed away in 2009.

I then was sober for 2 years but relapsed on alcohol, and was subsequently dropped from IPN. A DOH investigator interviewed me and recommended to the BON that I needed a psychiatric evaluation to address possible mental health issues. From my understanding, in 2011 the BON left the door open for me to rejoin IPN monitoring under their dual-diagnosis (substance abuse and mental health) track as opposed to only the substance abuse track I was dropped from.

Since then, from 2011-2014 I was intermittently treated by a psychiatrist for depression and anxiety for a few years. This was unsuccessful as I was not responding to 2 antidepressants, stimulant meds, and counseling. I have since been diagnosed with Sleep apnea and low testosterone which both produce the same cluster of debilitating symptoms from depression.

Since 2011 I have put together periods of sobriety for several years at a time, with short-lived relapses. Getting treated for apnea and testosterone replacement produced tremendous benefits physically, mentally, and emotionally. The only psych med I’m on is one of the original antidepressants at half the dose. I seem to relapse after losing a good woman (initially a fiancé left me, then my mother passing).

In April 2019 my girlfriend at the time was using heroin without my knowledge and passed away. I subsequently relapsed and was caught with misdemeanor paraphernalia possession. I got married in June 2020, and I lived half the week with my 83-year-old father who needs my help and the other half with my wife and 11yr old stepson who was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

I was spreading myself too thin and I’ve never worked an actual 12 step recovery program, so I recently relapsed on alcohol and got a DUI in October 2020. I’ve finally realized how unmanageable my life is when I abuse drugs or alcohol and I’ve immersed myself in AA and Celebrate Recovery (faith-based 12-step program). I’ve also started with a psychiatrist and therapist again.

I’m applying to FL Board for reinstatement under IPN dual-diagnosis track, I’m hoping to make the Feb 3rd meeting. Do I even have a chance at being reinstated by BON pending IPN being able to advocate on my behalf again? Even though I don’t feel I need rehab (been through several), I will do whatever they require. I’ve addressed everything that’s debilitating me EXCEPT working a 12 step recovery program. I hope they see it’s been the missing ingredient for me and my ability to practice nursing at a high level.

Thanks so much for reading and considering. 

Dear Do I Have a Chance?

My heart goes out to you with the loss of your wife and mother and all your struggles. Working a 12 step program is the key to changing your life. 

IPN (Intervention Project for Nurses) is a state-affiliated monitoring program in Florida for health care workers. Your file goes to the Department of Health (DOH) if you break your IPN contract or don't complete the monitoring requirements.

You can apply to have your license reinstated, as you've done. It sounds like you are doing everything right with the IPN dual diagnosis treatment program, and your commitment to sobriety.

The BON will look at all aspects of your case, including your DUI in October 2020, which is not that long ago. Their job is to protect the public.

I can't predict what they'll decide, and you may or may not get your license back, but if you stay sober, you will have won.

There's a great community of nurses in recovery here on all nurses and I hope you'll post your questions there.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth